Reporting: Not a Goal But a Tool

When one participates in a seminar on sustainability reporting one would expect to receive an extensive package of the most recent information and a possibility to share experiences with like-minded professionals.

In this respect, my expectations were fully met at the GRI Standards Launch Event in Amsterdam on April 11. However, I was delighted that the panel, led by Anton Sandler from Deloitte Netherlans, introduced new subjects into the discussion. Sandra Schoonhoven from ING, Christopher Springham from LM Windpower, Mariëlle van der Linden from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Maarten De Vuyst from Oxfam Novib, broadened the debate to cover issues such as the role of reporting in developing corporate sustainability work and stakeholder relations.

Fueled by audience questions, it was further discussed if a company should be managed in an integrated way – and should have been for ages already if the idea were to be truly sustainable – instead of waiting for certain standards to lead to that direction. On the other hand, we learned that at ING, the transition towards an integrated reporting has supported the bank’s sustainability professionals to include other departments into the reporting process. And, obviously, into the sustainability work, as well.

Sandra Schoonhoven reminded further that reporting is absolutely no goal as such: it is a tool for a more sustainable and responsible business. A remark worth mentioning because when a room is full of reporting professionals one might soon start considering reporting or standards the navel of the world.

Taking into account all the efforts and resources behind sustainability reporting in companies, it is a pity that even the best reports do not reach all the company stakeholders. How could companies utilize information and data gathered for the reporting in other sustainability communications? This very interesting question was raised at the end of the event but due to time limits could not be addressed very profoundly. It would be more than a pleasure to continue the discussion in another occasion. A workshop or a seminar? Anybody else interested?

Blog, April 14, 2017

Photo: Olli-Pekka Orpo.