LONDON, UK, October 27, 2017 (ENS) – Top global companies are making measurable improvements in sustainability reporting, finds the latest Reporting matters study from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, WBCSD.
Spanning 157 WBCSD member companies from 20 sectors and 35 countries, this year’s research, released earlier this month, points to positive progress in corporate reporting and disclosure as well as a continued movement towards digital reporting.
Seventy-four percent of the company reports reviewed for this year’s report improved their overall score compared to baseline year 2013.
Seventy-nine percent of reporting companies acknowledge the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in some way. On September 25, 2015, world governments adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved by 2030.
The new Reporting matters data shows that 44 percent of reporting companies go beyond a traditional PDF report and include online content, up from 23 percent in 2014 when the WBCSD started tracking this data.
Thirty-four percent of reporting companies combine financial and non-financial information, up from 23 percent in 2013, and 22 percent specifically cite the International Integrated Reporting Framework.
Twenty-seven percent note that executive compensation is tied to sustainability metrics in some way, but only five companies provide specific percentages.
Peter Bakker, WBCSD chief executive and president, said, “This year’s Reporting matters shows that there is clear progress towards transformative change that will be an essential part of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“We see the trend toward online and integrated reporting is moving non-financial reporting further into the mainstream – positioning sustainability at the heart of corporate governance, financial and risk management,” said Bakker. “This is a positive lever to scale up impact and make more sustainable companies more successful.”
Despite progress, the report shows that companies face increased pressure to report on an expanding universe of disclosure requirements, while also meeting the needs of a wider variety of key stakeholders.
Companies must find ways to meet the challenge, making sure all reported information is concise and meaningful.
Reporting matters helps companies meet the reporting challenges by providing good-practice examples as well as general trends and benchmarks over the past five years.
Bakker says this is particularly useful to business because insights can be shared across sectors for collective improvement.
This year’s report also provides insight into the new Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations, WBCSD’s new collaborative work on risk management with COSO, the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, an initiative to combat corporate fraud.
Also included are updates on the status of human rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reporting.
The Global Reporting Initiative, GRI, is still the most widely used set of reporting guidelines and standards, and 85 percent of member company reports cite the GRI Guidelines or the new standards. Eighteen percent have already transitioned to the new GRI Standards.
Louise Ayling, senior sustainability consultant at Radley Yeldar, a London-based creative consultancy, said, “We’re excited about the theme of this year’s Reporting matters, which for the first time shines a spotlight on the challenges companies face while trying to navigate the competing needs of multiple stakeholders.”
“We highlight the importance of addressing new disclosure requirements such as TCFD and demonstrating tangible progress towards the SDGs,” she said.
“At the same time,” said Ayling, “Reporting matters acknowledges the increasing demand for engaging sustainability content by a wider variety of audiences, across broader channels, such as online and integrated reporting.”
Bakker says Reporting matters will continue into 2018 and beyond as WBCSD and its member companies work to improve corporate reporting on the road to a sustainable future.