Making Investment Grade: The Future of Corporate Reporting
by: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Rio+20, as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development has come to be known, provides an unprecedented opportunity for the world to transform the current economic paradigm into one that enhances human well-being, while respecting planetary boundaries and environmental limits. To facilitate this transformation, we need to measure what matters, so that we are able to understand whether we are making progress. This will require changes in the way we perceive progress, make financial decisions and do business, to ensure that social and environmental considerations are fully integrated into decision-making. The issue of sustainability reporting, in particular, has gained traction on the international agenda as there has been growing recognition that financial reporting alone is insufficient and that not enough companies are reporting on sustainability performance.
Many companies - and the majority of leading multinationals - are reporting, with most using methods based on those of the Global Reporting Initiative, of which UNEP was a co-founder. Reaching companies in developing and emerging economies remains challenging, as is reaching smaller companies along global value chains - which are estimated to be responsible for more than 50 per cent of GDP worldwide. Against this backdrop there is also the drive towards integrated reporting of financial and ESG (environment, society and governance)-related issues. UNEP, through various efforts including the 'Carrots and Sticks' series of publications, has promoted sustainability reporting for private and public institutions along globally applicable guidelines. UNEP works in close cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact, the International Integrated Reporting Council, and others, to help companies better understand and address their integrated environmental and social impacts. UNEP supports increased sustainability reporting for investors to use in financial decisionmaking, life cycle-based methodologies such as resource footprinting, science-based information on critical resource flows, and capacity enhancement in developing and emerging economies.
We don't know how sustainable reporting will evolve, but we know it is evolving - and rapidly. In this publication, thought leaders, practitioners and companies were invited to reflect on achievements and speculate about future developments. It provides an impressive overview of the range of opinions on the future of sustainability reporting.