By: Anastasia Ostapchuk and Megan Wallingford
Six emerging sustainability reporting practices in Canada
After a launch of the Global Compact Network Canada’s inaugural Reporting Peer Review Program this summer, a second cohort of Canadian companies successfully completed the program in October. The seven participating companies (Agrium, Bell, Goldcorp, Loop Initiatives (reviewer only), Stantec, Suncor, & TELUS) have named Canadian telecom provider, TELUS, the winner of the Global Compact Peer Review Distinction: Best Report in Group.
“Being able to receive feedback on TELUS’ CSR report from a number of peer experts provides invaluable insight into how we can continuously improve how, why and what we communicate to our stakeholders. We were very pleased to win the Global Compact Peer Review Distinction of Best Report in Group and by having the opportunity to review so many other great reports we are able to learn and inform future reporting and disclosure. I encourage other organizations to take part in this program” said Geoff Pegg, Director of Sustainability at TELUS.
The Global Compact Peer Review Distinction: Best Report in Group is awarded to one company in each peer review cohort and is determined based on a score submitted by participating companies.
Emerging Reporting Practices in Canada
Each round of the GCNC Reporting Peer Review Program concludes with a roundtable discussion where the participants identify and discuss key emerging practices and areas for improvement. During this session’s roundtable, several of the key takeaways and emerging practices identified during our last Reporting Peer Review Program were echoed (read our blog on our previous Reporting Peer Review Program here) and additional emerging good practices were also discussed.
Here are some emerging good practices and examples that participants identified:
TELUS – The effective use of graphics, design, and layout to enhance user experience and readability
Participants agreed that TELUS’ 2013 CSR Report excelled in terms of its navigability, user friendliness, and the strategic use of infographics to explain data. The layout of TELUS’ report is simple and easy to navigate, while the report design balances simplicity and the use of graphics as an explanatory tool.
Here is one example of an infographic used in TELUS’ report:
Source: Page 40 of TELUS’ 2013 CSR Report
Stantec – Integration of the GRI G4 Reporting Guidelines & Conciseness
As companies begin to adopt the new GRI G4 Guidelines, Stantec was recognized for its good practice in comprehensively integrating G4 throughout their 2013 Sustainability Report. Reviewers highlighted that Stantec’s report provides a strong explanation of G4 and connection between the materiality and content, while maintaining conciseness. In addition to the Sustainability Report, Stantec also provides an Excel spreadsheet that includes all GRI content.
Goldcorp – Creativity and variety in communication mediums
Goldcorp’s 2013 Sustainability Report was recognized for its unique combination of online and PDF report format. Goldcorp’s online report features a sidebar that allows the reader to create a customized PDF version of the report by adding specific sections or pages to the ‘print basket’. In addition, readers can also turn on and off Glossary and GRI Indicators. Both of these features create a customized experience for the reader.
See a snapshot of Goldcorp’s customizable sidebar:
Bell – Embedding the business case for sustainability
Bell Canada’s Corporate Responsibility Report 2013 was recognized for effectively framing the business case for sustainability management. At the beginning of the report, Bell includes a section titled “Sustainability Megatrends in our Industry” where they describe the megatrends, and indicate how they impact their business. The megatrends and associated issues are then referred to and addressed throughout the report.
Bell’s discussion of the Sustainability Megatrends can be found on page 9 of the 2013 Corporate Responsibility Report.
Agrium – Illustrating your sustainability impacts along the value chain
Reviewers overwhelmingly agreed that the value chain impact diagram in Agrium’s 2013 Sustainability Report is an innovative and emerging reporting good practice. Agrium combines simple images and key data points to explain its value chain and demonstrate impacts. Through this value chain diagram readers are also able to identify the sustainability topics Agrium has identified as material to its operations.
Here is a screen capture of Agrium’s value chain diagram:
Source: Page 4 of Agrium’s 2013 Sustainability Report
Suncor – Industry benchmarking
Participants identified Suncor’s practice of benchmarking performance against industry figures as a good reporting practice. In the 2014 Sustainability Report, Suncor provides a series of charts that benchmark a number of greenhouse gas (GHG) indicators against the industry average (as calculated by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers). This benchmark provides context to Suncor’s emissions data and allows the reader to assess Suncor’s performance. Reviewers agreed that this is a unique practice that should be mainstreamed.
See an example of Suncor’s industry benchmarking here:
Where to From Here: Areas for Improvement
Along with good reporting practices that Canadian companies are demonstrating, participants identified a number of areas for improvement. These include:
Balance: The most authentic sustainability reports are the ones that provide a balance between communication of positive and negative performance. Providing a balanced view in the report – reporting on successes, failures, and areas for improvement – creates a sense of legitimacy and authenticity for readers. Participants of our earlier Reporting Peer Review Program identified and discussed a similar takeaway.
Framing and Context: Effectively framing and providing adequate context around sustainability data and performance is a major challenge for reporting companies, especially given the diversity of stakeholders who read the reports. Several participating companies were recognized for providing useful framing and context in certain areas; however this is remains to be an area for improvement.
Conciseness: As companies are expected to comply with a growing number of frameworks and report to a growing number of stakeholders, producing a concise report is difficult. Many companies are beginning to develop creative reporting solutions such as the use of interactive reports and different filtering mechanisms to allow users to ‘create their own reports.’
What did the participants gain from the process?
With two rounds of the Reporting Peer Review Program completed we continue to receive positive feedback on the insights and learnings gained throughout this program. Here’s what several participants from this cohort had to say about the program:
“The peer review was extremely useful for us – both to see what other companies are doing and to have a fresh set of eyes on our own report. The feedback allowed us to see where our message was getting through and where we could improve or clarify our reporting. We particularly benefited from seeing how other companies present information, which gave us some fresh ideas for future reports.”
– Catherine Tegelberg, CSR Analyst, Performance and Reporting, Goldcorp
“The GCNC Peer Review Program provides Bell with much-needed feedback that helps us improve the relevance of our Corporate Responsibility report for various audiences, and also highlights areas for further internal improvement. We use the feedback collected as evidence to demonstrate to decision-makers where we need to change and improve the way we do things. Sustainability as a corporate objective is about continuous improvement and external feedback helps to narrow our attention to what matters most.”
– Stephanie Berger, Senior Specialist, Corporate Responsibility & Environment, Bell Canada
“I found the GCNC Peer Review Program to be greatly helpful. The reviews provided by our peers and the opportunity to review others’ reports offered important opportunities for improvement and best practices that will serve to strengthen Stantec’s future sustainability reports.”
– Lise Beutel, Senior Sustainability Specialist, Stantec
“The report review process was thorough, enlightening and well organized. It was a valuable immersion into how new reporting standards and best practices are being applied. I also enjoyed having honest discussions about the opportunities and challenges of creating great sustainability reports.”
– Emily Partington, Sustainability Consultant and Manager, Loop Initiatives
“Participating in the Fall 2014 CSR Report Peer Review was a great experience overall. I appreciated the time taken by sustainability experts from leading Canadian businesses to provide appropriate and actionable advice.”
– Rose Lecky, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Agrium Inc.
Interested in participating or learning more about the GCNC Reporting Peer Review Program?
We are looking forward to running this program twice again in 2015.