Many companies today are facing increasing pressure and expectations to report on their ESG performance and impact. However, ESG reporting is not an easy task. It requires collecting and analyzing data from various sources, applying different frameworks and standards, and communicating the results in a clear and consistent way. As companies strive to meet the growing demand for sustainable practices, the role of data and analytics in facilitating credible ESG reporting cannot be overlooked.
ESG reporting involves the disclosure of a company's performance in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects and allows stakeholders to assess its sustainability efforts. It’s a direct response to the increasing demand from stakeholders and consumers for greater transparency and accountability in their business practices and operations.
Case in point: Approximately 76% of surveyed consumers explicitly stated that they would cease their purchases from companies that engage in negative practices toward the environment, employees, or the local community. Moreover, a survey encompassing consumers, employees, and executives revealed that both consumers and employees expect businesses to proactively establish ESG best practices rather than merely reacting to them.
It is crucial for companies to go beyond reactive measures and integrate sustainability initiatives into their core values and organizational structure. This integration entails aligning these initiatives with the company's foundation and purpose while ensuring transparent measurement and reporting, which is where ESG reporting plays a pivotal role.
The different aspects of the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework/approach/standard.
ESG reporting fundamentals
ESG reporting enables businesses to communicate environmental, social, and governance performance to stakeholders such as investors, customers, employees, and communities. ESG reporting typically involves disclosing information on a wide range of ESG issues, such as:
Environmental. This includes information on a company's impact on the environment, such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water usage, waste generation, and resource consumption.
Social. This includes information on a company's impact on society, such as labor practices, human rights, employee diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and product safety.
Governance. This includes information on a company's governance structure and practices, such as board composition, executive compensation, risk management, and anticorruption policies.
Companies that possess robust ESG propositions have surpassed their counterparts in terms of total shareholder return by an average of 4.7%. Furthermore, companies with strong ESG propositions have experienced an average increase of 19% in their valuation multiples, whereas those with weak ESG propositions have witnessed an average decline of 12% in their multiples.
Best practices in ESG reporting
As businesses increasingly recognize the importance of ESG reporting, it's crucial to establish a clear ESG framework that outlines what will be reported and how it will be measured:
Identify the audience and stakeholders. For instance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines stakeholders as individuals or organizations that are affected by, or can affect, the company's ESG initiatives. These can include customers, employees, investors, suppliers, regulators, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and communities.
Establish a clear ESG framework. This involves:
Defining ESG metrics and KPIs. For instance, a technology company may track energy consumption, waste generation, and employee diversity as ESG metrics, with corresponding KPIs such as reducing energy consumption by 10% over the next five years and increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions to 30% by 2025. Companies can also use established standards and frameworks that can help you define your ESG metrics and KPIs.
Setting ESG targets. An example would be setting a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030, in line with Paris Agreement targets.
Collecting and managing data. This data needs to be relevant and reliable as well as high-quality and accurate. Ensuring these could involve working with third-party providers or investing in specialized software to automate data collection and analysis. Furthermore, different ESG reporting standards have their own specific data requirements that reflect their objectives and focus areas.
Reporting and communicating progress. This entails:
Choosing appropriate reporting platforms. There are several types of reporting platforms for ESG, including standalone reports, integrated reports, sustainability reports, and disclosures within annual reports.
Creating clear and concise ESG reports. ESG reports should be structured and formatted in a way that is easy to understand and follow, with a clear summary of the most important findings and trends.
Ensuring transparency and disclosure. ESG reports should include relevant contextual information, such as performance benchmarks, industry trends, and regulatory developments.
Reviewing policies and industry practices regularly. ESG metrics and KPIs should be aligned with long-term objectives and industry standards a swell as emerging ESG issues that may require additional attention or resources.
ESG reporting is a rapidly evolving field, and businesses need to stay up to date with industry practices and trends to ensure they are meeting stakeholder expectations and regulatory requirements. This includes tracking developments in reporting frameworks, such as the GRI and SASB, as well as following industry-specific initiatives and standards, such as the Equator Principles for the finance sector or the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
Download our white paper, “ESG Reporting Best Practices: Driving Business Success Through Sustainability,” which provides in-depth guidance on sustainability and ESG reporting:
- Various frameworks based on industry practices as well as sustainability standards and regulations
- The importance of materiality and double materiality in ESG reportin
- The significance and limitations of ESG scores/ratings
- The impact of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in ESG reporting
- The role of data and analytics in ESG reporting