Writing CSR, ESG and Sustainability Reports

Sustainability Reports Have Changed

Source: Governance & Accountability Institute

by | Sep 21, 2022

Sustainability Reports Have Changed

(Credit: G&A)

How sustainability reports have changed. When we originally wrote this article in 2010 (you can read that copy below), sustainability reports were rather few and far between. In 2011, only 20% of the S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports or disclosures, according to research from the Governance & Accountability Institute. At the end of last year, 92% were reporting.

What to call your “sustainability” report

Even the name has changed, what were often referred to as CSR reports, are today most often referred to as ESG Reports or Sustainability reports, according to research conducted by Teneo.

Sustainability Reports: Frameworks and Frameworks and…

And a range of frameworks and standards have been developed for organizations to use including those provided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and CDP’s public reporting questionnaire.

And as Teneo points out, “global regulation will certainly shape the ESG disclosure landscape over the next few years. Final SEC rules on climate disclosure and draft rules on human capital management disclosures are expected in fall 2022. The ISSB is also expected to release its final framework for climate and ESG reporting by the end of 2022. Final rules from the European Union’s CSRD are expected in 2023.”  You can read about some of these happenings here.

While a surprising number of the steps in our original article still stand true, we also think these aspects of Teneo’s report sum up sustainability reporting in 2022.

Today, most reports:

  • Are about  75 pages long,
  • Can be viewed and downloaded in a PDF format,
  • Contains either “ESG” or “Sustainability” in its title,
  • Include a letter from the CEO,
  • Summarize how the Board of Directors oversees ESG risks and opportunities,
  • Include a materiality matrix or similar prioritization of ESG issues,
  • Detail how the company engages with its stakeholders,
  • Include a net zero, carbon neutral or other GHG emissions reduction goal, and
  • Report against the SASB, TCFD, GRI and/or UN SDG ESG disclosure frameworks.

More of our articles on reporting here.

Read on for the original article.

The Low Carbon Innovation Network has surveyed its members to produce a 11 step guide for writing the environmental section of corporate social responsibility reports.

While some subjects may vary for different companies, according to the Low Carbon Innovation Network, here is a list of key topics that every organization should mention in the environmental section of their CSR report:

1. Introduction to Report

The introduction provides an opportunity to demonstrate how important environmental issues have become to an organization.

An organization should highlight the motivation behind its drive to tackle climate change. A brief comment on areas of focus has proved popular in the CSR reports of many of the Low Carbon Innovation Network members, often produced in a bullet-point format.

2. Energy and Climate Change Impact of Organization

Companies should summarize the impact its organization has. Outline the areas and include energy spending in all areas; supply chains, transport, the disposal of goods, offices etc., to show complete understanding. Outline carbon footprints thoroughly, describing the areas where carbon is emitted. Give a detailed account of  infrastructure employed, such as the kind of boiler system used.

3. How Company Monitors its Efforts

In this section, highlight the year round efforts made to improve environmental performance. Monitoring methods of each new initiative should be clearly outlined and any occasion where monitoring led to improvements being made should be described.

This section expresses that the improvement of environmental credentials is high up on the agenda all year round, and that initiatives are not only employed but also adjusted to have maximum impact.

4. Transport’s Part in Overall Carbon Footprint

Transport can make up a large part of the overall carbon footprint. It is important to indicate all the types of business travel, from delivery trucks to the mode of transport used by staff when on business trips.

Lay out all of the carbon emission statistics of each mode of transport. If this has not been previously done, the results could prove to be valuable in targeting the areas where carbon efficiency can be improved.

It is a good opportunity to out-line the use of green transport in this section. If bicycle storage and showers have been installed which have led to more people cycling to work, give a brief description of the impact this has had.

5. Flexible Working Programs

Flexi-time can be employed in one of two ways: first, staff may be given a choice of hours to work; for example employees can begin work at any time between 7:30 and 10:00, and can finish anytime between 3:30 and 7:00, providing they have completed their contracted hours of work. It seems an apt idea when you think many carbon emissions are released from the long traffic jams in the morning when everyone is trying to get into work by nine o’clock.

Flexi-days is another way in which to reduce carbon emissions. Staff can earn a day of leave by coming in early or leaving late. Similar programs have been adopted by some of the Low Carbon Innovation Network members where employees work from home. The number of journeys into work is therefore reduced and as a result carbon emissions are cut down.

6. Waste and Recycling – Be Specific

A calculation of the amount of waste created is advisable, with a view to stating the figure on the CSR report. The kinds of waste should be mentioned, giving a percentage of how much waste is recycled from the overall amount of waste produced.

7. Keep Tabs on the Supply Chain

It is now common practice that organizations have a responsibility to check that their supply chain reaches the correct environmental standards. List the companies within the supply chain. Make clear that the importance given to environmental performance is understood by each of these companies, and outline ways increased efficiency is encouraged.

8. Involvement of Staff and Consumers

This section should demonstrate your company’s interest in educating both staff and consumers on becoming more energy efficient. Some examples of things to mention include; staff training, the addition of carbon labelling on products, incentives provided to encourage the recycling of packaging, information supplied on the company web page that encourages awareness, programs carried out with the local community to improve environmental credentials.

9. What is your Organization’s Targets

In the UK, the primary target is to reach the government set aim of a 15 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2010. However, there are other targets that relate to each organization that are often dependent on extenuating circumstances, such as the organization’s sector.

Furthermore, rather than being in a statistical format, some aims will be in a pledge form that will help the organization’s general drive to reduce carbon emissions. Each target should be noticeably marked out in this section, so that readers of the report are clear on the efforts your organization is making to become more energy efficient.

10. Next Steps for Your Company

Each year, organizations can look to improve its policy on the environment by using a multitude of methods, ranging from employing new technology to changing company targets.

11. Feedback from Interested Parties

The developments from the last CSR report need to be shown in the current report. Here is the section where you can show why you went for certain programs, based on the feedback on successes or failures from previous years. Feedback can directly relate to the “Next Steps” section in previous reports, allowing interested parties to view clear examples where progression has taken place over the last 12 months.

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