What is corporate sustainability reporting
and why do companies do it?
While there is no internationally agreed on definition of corporate sustainability reporting, it is generally understood as being the practice of measuring and disclosing sustainability information alongside, or integrated with, companies’ existing reporting practices. Sustainability information can be understood as any information having to do with how companies use and affect financial, natural and human resources, and how their corporate governance is conducted.
Commitment to corporate sustainability reporting in Rio+20 outcome document
Paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want, highlights the important role of corporate sustainability reporting as a key element to improving the private sector’s contribution to sustainable development by creating a standard of accountability and transparency. Calling on companies to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle, paragraph 47 encourages enhanced action on corporate sustainability reporting and builds on previous UN summit commitments for corporate environmental and social responsibility and accountability.
Corporate sustainability reporting should deliver information in such a way that it provides decision making value to investors, customers, employees and other relevant groups who have a stake in the company or who are in some way affected by the company’s actions. This type of reporting should increase the transparency and accountability of companies, and is considered an important way for companies to demonstrate their performance and long-term economic value, to assume corporate responsibility and to contribute to sustainable development.
Who is reporting?
In both industrialized and developing economies thousands of companies are reporting their sustainability performance as companies and their investors, customers, and employees have discovered the value of transparency for business, markets, and communities. Despite the fact that most of the largest companies in the world engage in this type of reporting, there are a multitude of other companies that have significant sustainability impacts that do not.
How is UNEP involved with this agenda?
UNEP seeks to assist in activities that both scale up the quantity of companies reporting globally, and improve the quality and usefulness of the information being disclosed. UNEP has worked for many years with governments, non-governmental organisations, industry associations and companies to promote the practice of corporate sustainability reporting and the implementation of voluntary commitments by the private sector toward enhancing sustainable development.
UNEP’s efforts to promote corporate sustainability reporting include:
- Facilitating initiatives and processes that further develop corporate sustainability reporting frameworks and policy-making such as those involving governments, UN partner organisations, the private sector and the financial community;
- Monitoring and advising on reporting trends by publishing overviews on the sustainability reporting landscape; and
- Providing technical support, including the development of tools and methodologies to help companies of all sizes, especially in developing countries, measure and report their respective impacts on the environment.
UNEP’s work on corporate sustainability reporting