We love reporting! We help create fabulous sustainability reports with the overarching goal of helping companies build trust by sharing their sustainability performance and progress in a clear, balanced and authentic way.
Seven things we know about reporting:
It’s a process as much as an output. Good reporting process engages many people in the organization and drives debate, fosters accountability and builds a team approach. Good reporting is well planned and executed.
It’s a source of pride for employees. People want to work for companies that operate ethically and make a difference.
Reports are used by a wide range of people with diverse interests – regulators and policymakers, researchers, students, media, investors, customers, consumers, employees and potential employees, community groups, peer companies, industry analysts and more. These stakeholders hold your company to account and can help your company succeed.
Reporting is only as good as a company’s performance. If there is no meaningful progress in sustainability practice, your report will be woefully anemic. Before reporting comes strategy and action.
Reporting is becoming increasingly regulated around the world in different ways, so companies who have yet not started to report will find themselves at a rather big disadvantage.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards are the only sustainability reporting standards focused exclusively on impact reporting. GRI Standards are used annually by thousands of companies as the primary way of sharing their positive (and negative) impacts on people, society and the environment. As a baseline framework for sustainability reporting, it’s the only way to go.
Reports need a future focus. They should reflect your goals, targets and plans. This instils confidence and adds credibility.
We could go on.
See our CSR Reporting Blog for more insights about reporting. Or take a look at some of the reports we have prepared for our clients.
Beyond Business can support your reporting process from start to finish, guide you through the correct use of current and emerging standards and frameworks, including GRI, ISSB/SASB, ESRS (EU), TCFD and frameworks such as CDP, EcoVadis and others. We provide the guidance to create a robust reporting process, templates and input formats for gathering content, assist in conducting interviews with Subject Matter Experts and preparation of report narratives and data to meet your reporting objectives.
Before your reporting starts however, you should be thinking about your materiality assessment and sustainability strategy and ESG policies. We also support these processes. Read more about these on the relevant pages of this site.
See the Reports page for reports that Beyond Business has helped create for clients over the years.
Sustainability by definition is long-term. Integrating sustainability into your business strategy can help your company deliver better results for society and the planet as well as for the business.
But sustainability is also a very broad topic, encompassing many aspects of the business in every area of activity. That’s why it’s important to take a strategic approach.
Using your business goals and plans and a sustainability materiality assessment that includes stakeholder input, you can define the most significant aspects of sustainability that, when addressed, can help your business do better and contribute to a just society and a thriving planet.
Developing a sustainability strategy may sound straightforward, but, in fact, sustainability strategy discussions can be some of the toughest in the business. This is because managers often find themselves addressing issues from different perspectives that are not the same as traditional balance sheet approaches.
Similarly, the longer-term nature of a strategic approach can be risky, as the tools to track and measure performance and impact may not yet exist and need to be developed.
Whatever the challenges, we can help.
We simplify strategy so that it is focused, uncluttered and meaningful to internal and external stakeholders.
Before we help you develop your strategy, we will check out, and help you create, if necessary, a stakeholder map and engagement plan and a materiality assessment.
When we first engaged with Keter Group, a privately-owned global leader in durable consumer lifestyle solutions for in and around the home, the company sought to refocus its sustainability efforts and integrate sustainability practices more fully across all aspects of the company’s activities. After mapping the company’s stakeholders, and working with Keter Group to develop a materiality assessment. Beyond Business helped Keter Group to formulate a sustainability strategy, aligned well with its core business, supported by a set of 2025 targets. The strategy was first published in Keter’s 2019 sustainability report, and continues to help structure company processes and guide actions. Keter has demonstrated progress against this strategy with each successive report since then.
Materiality has many definitions. “Material” simply means important or significant.
In the context of sustainability, however, it is used to reflect the most significant areas of sustainability that are relevant for a specific company, and should form part of its strategic approach to enhance its contribution to sustainable development and to its own business continuity and success.
Today, the emerging approach is Double Materiality. This comprises two elements:
the impact of a company’s activities on the economy, people and the environment.
This is the basis for GRI Standards, and reflects the impacts of companies on our lives through the business they do. It’s often called the Inside-Out approach.
Sustainability-related Financial Materiality:
the impact of sustainability matters on business continuity, resilience and long-term profitability. Typically, these are sustainability impacts that might not appear on a traditional balance sheet or in a company’s annual report. However, they have the ability to impact the business financials and are therefore important for companies to address. This is often called the Outside-In approach.
Defining materiality requires a deep understanding of a company’s stakeholders and their expectations, concerns and influence. It also requires robust (auditable) analysis of the impacts of and on the business in a way that enables an assessment of the nature, scope, scale and likelihood of these impacts.
Beyond Business is skilled in stakeholder mapping and double materiality analysis using our proprietary methodology. We can start from a blank sheet or from existing analyses that the company has undertaken. Our approach is pragmatic and resource-efficient to deliver results in a compact timeframe without undue burden on company time and management, though it does involve engagement of leaders across any business. No consultant can conduct a relevant materiality analysis as a purely external or desk-based exercise. We work with clients to define the most appropriate process given their past experience, preferred approach and time constraints.
In 2021 – 2022, we worked intensively with our long-standing valued client, Caesars Entertainment Inc., to refresh its stakeholder map and materiality assessment. We engaged with tens of leaders across the business as well as external advisors to deliver a stakeholder engagement approach and an impact materiality assessment. Using the impact materiality, we applied our sustainability-related financial materiality methodology to create an ESG risk assessment to represent the second part of the double materiality approach.
Sustainability (or ESG) policies and position statements are an essential part of any company’s transparency framework and ESG disclosure. Before stakeholders know what you do, they want to know your approach and the stand you take. Most sustainability reporting frameworks and standards also require a description of policy. Instead of repeating this content in each annual sustainability report a suite of ESG policy and position statements can be published on your website and referenced appropriately. These policies and positions do not tend to change so much from year to year, so your annual reporting burden is reduced and your annual sustainability report can focus on the difference you made in the reporting year, which, generally, is much more interesting!
Beyond Business has developed policy and position statements for many clients over the years covering a range of ESG topics.
Most sustainability projects – whether it’s strategy development, stakeholder mapping, materiality or reporting, or anything else – start with a need to know what’s already out there, what industry leaders and competitors are doing and what trends are influencing the direction of travel. Benchmarking both yields insights into current and best practice that can be helpful in formulating strategy, and also enables an informed decision about your own positioning on a particular topic.
Beyond Business is experienced and expert in developing tailored benchmarks to support sustainability decision making. We do this manually to ensure we pick up the right information and the nuances and context that influence the way the information is viewed. Our years of expertise in this field enables us to identify the best sources of information and slice and dice it in ways that yield insights, trends, leading practice, non-standard practices and useful data on any aspect of sustainability quickly and efficiently. All this in line with client requests and needs for specific types of information.
Examples of benchmarks we have delivered for different clients in the past few years include:
Conflict minerals reporting
Industry-specific ESG strategy, goals and targets
Food waste practices
Leading practice sustainability reporting
Information security disclosures
ESG governance practices
Gender pay parity
Ethical supply chain practices
Many clients find that an external professional review of their sustainability report can yield insights that do not surface during the course of intensive reporting activity. Sometimes you want to know how your report comes across to external stakeholders, or whether you are applying reporting standards correctly, as you had intended. Sometimes you just want some new ideas about how to structure your report or present the information in a more efficient or impactful way. This is why many clients over the years appreciate Beyond Business’s Expert Report Review Service.
The Expert Report Review is offered as a pre-publication review or post-publication to help improve the impact of a soon-to-be-published report or the one after that. Beyond Business examines your report content in detail, highlights positive aspects and/or inconsistencies and offer recommendations for improvement against three overarching criteria:
Overall credibility and impact
Content scope and quality
Presentation, navigation and readability
Our Expert Reviews typically run to 30-40 pages of incredibly useful analysis, insight, examples of practice from other reports and recommendations. Expert Reviews are for internal company use, not for publication, but we can support the Expert Review with a commentary for publication in your sustainability report – see the example below.
Overall Credibility and Impact
Role in Society:
How your sustainability report provides a picture of your company's role in society and your key business impacts. We look for a story of how your business makes a positive contribution to sustainable society and planet, beyond delivering profit for shareholders, and relevant context that supports understanding your value chain.
The degree of transparency provided by your report in terms of boundary, scope and disclosures of policies and performance, highlighting where transparency appears strong and where we see significant shortfalls against what might be expected of a company in your sector at your stage of development.
How your report reflects the relationships with and the interests of your stakeholders and the extent to which stakeholder voices have been acknowledged.
The overall impression your report projects and whether it enhances credibility and trust in your organization. This includes consistency with previous reports, if relevant, and the degree to which your report offers a balanced perspective of your sustainability performance and impacts.
We also review the degree to which your report reflects a strategic approach and the way goals and targets have been presented.
The way material issues have been addressed in your report, referencing commonly identified material issues for your sector or geography from a double materiality standpoint.
We look for disclosure of the materiality assessment process and whether this credibly underpins your material issue selection and disclosures.
Detailed Content Analysis
Our analysis includes a very detailed review of the way you have reported against your selected standards and frameworks such as GRI or SASB. We analyze the application of reporting principles and every single disclosure/metric against every single indicator. Our report includes our assessment of the degree of integrity in use of your selected standards and frameworks as well as examples of practice from other companies to show opportunities to improve disclosure. Companies that use this service year after year benefit from a clear comparison of the evolution of their reporting progress.
Presentation, Navigation and Readability
We review the structure, style, tone, consistency of flow and readability of your report, as well as how you have explained key terms. We assess whether your report provides a positive reading / use experience and whether the report format / design amplifies the content in a positive way or distracts users. We look for navigation tools that assist in locating relevant sections or information.
Elaine has provided reporting and strategy commentaries for the Ajinomoto Group over several years.