How to report on sustainability

Choosing how to report on sustainability requires many decisions.

Jump to the main content area

One key decision for sustainability reporting is the reporting structure. There is not one best option for this. It is much more about selecting the reporting structure that suits your company best.

We outline below the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three main ways of reporting on sustainability:

  1. A dedicated section in the Annual Report
  2. A separate Sustainability report
  3. An integrated Annual Report.

 

Dedicated section in the Annual Report

Advantages:

  • All sustainability content is in one place, making it the most straightforward option to implement

Disadvantages:

  • It can be difficult for stakeholders who are particularly interested in sustainability to find the relevant information
  • It doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to sustainability
  • It could be viewed as just a part of the Annual Report process, and therefore not given the focus or attention it deserves

A separate Sustainability report

Advantages:

  • It demonstrates a commitment to sustainability
  • It allows for more detailed disclosures on methodologies, data and processes
  • It makes it easier for stakeholders who are particularly interested in sustainability to find the relevant information

Disadvantages:

  • It can be slightly difficult to decide on which content to include in the Annual Report and how to link the two together
  • It requires the company to have a serious commitment to sustainability, in order to generate enough content to justify a separate Sustainability Report

Integrated Report

Integrated reporting would mean combining material financial and non-financial data and content in a single, integrated annual report to demonstrate the integration of sustainability into business strategy. The sustainability narrative would be woven throughout the entire report.

Advantages:

  • Integrated reporting demonstrates that sustainability is at the core of the business and that the directors are committed to sustainability.
  • A single report gives the complete story of the company, with plenty of detail on both financial and non-financial aspects of the company.

Disadvantages:

  • Integrated reporting requires buy-in from the board and senior management. In order for integrated reporting to be successful, there needs to be integrated thinking in the leaders of the organisation. Integrated thinking means that the board and senior management consider sustainability issues and material non-financial issues when thinking about the business model, strategy, performance and risks of the organisation. The leaders of the organisation do not just measure the success of the company through financial metrics, but consider sustainability and material non-financial performance to be of high importance. If this is not how the directors run the business, then producing an integrated report will not have the right impact.
  • If a company does not have integrated thinking, then using the format of the integrated report can reduce the impact of the sustainability content in the Annual Report, by spreading it out across the whole report, rather than containing it in one section.

If you would like assistance with understanding how to approach sustainability reporting, get in contact with a member of our team