Bedevilled by sustainability detail

SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING has moved away from greenwashing thanks to greater transparency, but has now become far too focused on detail. In essence, it’s become a “box-ticking exercise”, according to new research by Two Tomorrows.

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The Tomorrow’s Value Research (TVR) 2012 reveals that, in the drive for greater transparency, companies risk becoming too introspective and losing sight of the bigger sustainability picture.


Todd Cort, director of the TVR, said this is a “disturbing trend”. He explained:


“Large companies around the world are providing greater transparency in the form of metrics, targets and descriptions of their management approaches. This is evident in the continual rise in GRI [Global Reporting Initiative] reporters. However, it is evident that companies are losing sight of the big picture: are we successfully addressing the global challenges that we all face? Such challenges require collaborative solutions.”


Cort said that from his research it seems that the vast majority of metrics, targets and management approaches look away from collaborative efforts. Instead, they focus on sustainability aspects within the company’s sphere of control.


“Companies are becoming too introspective in their reports,” he added. “The result is corporate sustainability reports that paint legitimate pictures of success in sustainability but a global reality where we are far from achieving solutions.


“In 2000, sustainability came dangerously close to green-washing. Reporting standards since have persuaded reporting companies to disclose management approaches, but the pendulum has now swung too far. In 2012, sustainability reporting has become an almost obligatory box-ticking exercise demanded by stakeholders.


“Sustainability reporting should instead be an opportunity to drive continuous improvement toward the big challenges that we face as a society.”  


  • This month’s Footprint Forum on November 28th will consider sustainability reporting