Accessible and integrated reporting remains a rising priority
Last week I was delighted to join our annual Building Public Trust Awards for Sustainability Reporting in the FTSE 100, FTSE 250 and Public Sector. The lunch attracted over 120 client representatives from both the private and public sector. I would like to congratulate Unilever for winning the FTSE 100 award, Balfour Beatty for winning the FTSE 250 award and Highways Agency for winning the Public Sector award.
In this, the fifth year of the Sustainability Reporting awards, PwC’s assessment suggests that a large proportion of companies (particularly FTSE 100) continue to report on their sustainability performance which underlines that reporting in an open, accessible and integrated way remains a rising priority for many of the UK’s most forward-thinking listed companies.
However - disappointingly - it also suggested that progress has slowed significantly. Apart from a few stand-out reports and big improvers, the standard of sustainability reporting has largely remained the same year on year. A few examples were identified of how sustainability related issues are really being integrated and embedded within a business, or of how this is helping to shape the company in the future. Experience is similar in the public sector, where the pace of change is slow but we are seeing a gradual shift towards better reporting – in part accelerated by the new mandatory reporting requirements.
Amid today’s tough trading conditions, it is understandable that reporting on sustainability performance may have slipped down the agenda for many boards. But it can make a real difference—not least by helping to build and retain trust among a wide range of stakeholders.
It’s for this very reason that transparent and integrated sustainability reporting is especially important in the current environment. This importance applies equally in the public and private sectors, since both businesses and governments have pivotal roles to play in enabling society to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and foster sustainable development.
While this trend takes nothing away from the winners and organisations that have been highly commended, it does suggest that many companies that ‘talk the talk’ on sustainability reporting now need to show a real commitment by ‘walking the walk’.
More positively, the awards provided a high-profile indication of the progress being made by the leaders in an increasingly important and influential aspect of reporting. The winners and companies that were highly commended are showing their peers the way forward to a more sustainable world.