What a sustainability report is for (I)

A sustainability report is the main tool of an organisation to communicate its environmental performance and impact

A sustainability report is the main tool available to an organisation or company to voluntarily communicate its performance and impact — positive or negative — in environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. The information in the report should be relevant to stakeholders.

The main goal of a sustainability report is to provide transparency on the company's contribution to sustainable development; it is also viewed as a means of accountability vis-à-vis stakeholders (investors, employees, market regulators, suppliers, civil society, customers, etc.).

Why it's important

Writing the report requires developing and communicating the links between sustainability and the business by compiling information and updating it regularly. Below are some of the advantages of producing a sustainability report:

What's a sustainability report for (I)

- It helps improve management of the organisation by identifying risks, discovering opportunities to save energy, avoiding compliance issues, etc.

- It strengthens internal communication and the feeling of belonging. In large organisations, employees are often unaware of actions by the company with which they might identify.

- It enhances the organisation's reputation and image by communicating its connection to sustainable development in the form of a range of sustainable services and its social and environmental contribution.

- It improves financial relations by providing a unified message and avoiding off-message statements. Since the report is produced on the basis of internal consensus, it constitutes a regular source of reliable information.

Who decides what information should be conveyed

This is determined by stakeholders on the basis of a materiality analysis. This analysis, in which all parties who contribute to, or are affected by, the organisation are consulted, determines what is important for inclusion in the report.

How to tell it

The most widely used standard for drafting sustainability reports was created by the Global Reporting Initiative, which was founded by CERES and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

A sustainability report is not just a compilation of data; the goal is to take something abstract and make it tangible. Producing a sustainability report helps to configure an organisation's strategy, making it easier to set goals, measure performance and, ultimately, manage the change towards a sustainable business model.