Just taking the first steps towards developing a sustainability program can create the momentum needed to build stakeholder engagement and support. Stakeholders as Readers of Sustainability Reports, a new research report from the Australian Center for Corporate Social Responsibility, examines the impact of sustainability reporting, as well as the concerns and expectations of stakeholders. The report reveals that first time reporters experience the greatest increase in reputation, especially when they learn something new about the company. Although the report found that there is more scrutiny of subsequent reports, it attributes this to stakeholders’ increased level of knowledge about CSR and higher expectations. For organizations struggling to expand their sustainability programs, better tools to track, manage and report data can provide clarity to stakeholders and help justify the need for sustainable operations.
A recent survey conducted by Ernst and Young on corporate sustainability trends revealed that 76% of respondents compile their data using spreadsheets. While an increasing number of organizations are conducting sustainability reporting, the growth of reporting is hampered by rudimentary tools. As Joel Makower, founder of GreenBiz, points out in his summary of the survey “…sustainability is of growing importance to CFOs, but the tools being used to gather sustainability information are Stone Age, technologically speaking.”
The big question is why organizations are using tools with such limited utility. There are a number of factors that can play a part: limited budget and personnel, lack of support or buy-in at the CXO-level, limited expertise in sustainability issues, to name a few. Organizations may be struggling to just get started with their sustainability reporting. They are expected to implement a sustainability program for long-term competitive advantage, as well as show immediate results and progress from sustainability reporting. Sustainability reporting tools and solutions need to bridge the gap between short-term tactics and long-term strategy by providing a clear path with manageable steps.