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Ten thoughts on sustainability reporting trends/issues

Having chaired some of day one of our corporate sustainability reporting and communications conference today here in London, here are some random thoughts, in the usual fashion:
(I really really really didn’t not mean for there to be a round number of ten here, I promise you, it just happened, it’s not a blogging gambit 🙂
  1. GRI is aware of the flaws in their system: G4 will try help separate the true reporters from the self-certifying pretenders. Companies unduly claiming A+ certification have killed that kind of scoring credibility.
  2.  Given current trends, another financial crisis is likely: Its few benefits may include greater transparency.
  3. It’s unclear just what Obama and the SEC have planned in the next few years: But there is hope. Disclosure rules around conflict minerals and slave labour are gaining awareness.
  4. Social media is just as scary and solutions as cliche-ridden as ever. Companies can easily find themselves at the whim of the mob. Journalism has fragmented, bloggers are hard to engage by comparison. The rules of the game have changed, but are very unclear.
  5. Companies still struggle to move beyond the basic data to engage in real conversation. They produce better “cones” but are short on the “ice cream” that goes on top. Taking messages out of reports and targeting them at stakeholder groups remains the exception rather than the rule.
  6. It’s still not clear who the audience is for reports by companies who are not in the public eye.
  7. Reporting on B2B collaboration remains a challenge and currently is principally for internal stakeholders, where it exists.
  8. The work of International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and that of others, such as The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is at a very nascent stage. It’s likely/hoped that it will one day influence political decisions about transparency.
  9.  Two key stakeholders, Government and Investors, are still largely missing from the debate, but slow inroads are being made, with setbacks. Carbon risk is better understood, but mis-priced.
  10. When governments do act, hammers may be used to crack nuts. The hope is that disclosure rules, currently coming incrementally issue by issue, will one day be based on accepted ‘standards’ and guidelines from the likes of IIRC, SASB and GRI.

    Comments welcomed.

 More tomorrow, from Day Two of the conference. Tweets from today are at #ecrc and