When I read about “transparency” in the context of sustainability or sustainability management the term mostly is referring to reporting to and communication with the relevant stakeholders of businesses. That’s the case in a study on “Corporate Responsibility and Transparency” (in German: Unternehmerische Verantwortung im Zeitalter der Transparenz) published by pwc in March 2011. The pwc study assesses sustainability reporting of Austrian, Swiss and German companies and shows that 87% of German DAX noted businesses already do sustainability reporting. The energy sector is strongly represented among these, the diagnosis of pwc shows that more stakeholder dialogue is expected in the future to be integrated to the reporting.
Requirements for sustainability reporting according to a pwc study
The authors of pwc list several requirements organization should follow for their sustainbility reporting:
- Describe clearly your sustainability strategy and how you manage and controll the achievements.
- Address potential or actual conflicting objectives and your solutions to them.
- Follow recognized international standards for non-financial reporting such as Global Reporting Initiative G3 guidlines (GRI).
- Go for third-party certification to ensure credibility of your report.
Especially the last point is not a surprise taking into consideration that third-party certification of reports is a business and enterprises like pwc have been focussing on this for decades.
Is reporting and communication the only issue related to transparency?
Taking a closer look at corporations that are ranked as the most sustainable companies of the world, reporting and communication is one important aspect and today it is often the first step companies take. Looking at companies like Geberit or Henkel, who are ranked as the most sustainable companies of the world, they started with analysing environmental impacts, improving their production systems and than reported on this. So the basis for their success is transparency of their production systems looking at responsiblities, environmental and social impacts. Their secret is an inclusive approach to sustainability.
The most sustainable company in the world created transparency internally first!
Geberit already started in the 1990’s with Life Cycle Assessments for their products and sites using professional Software tools like Umberto. They are seen as an early adopter and sector leader and prove that a company following strictly the sustainabilty path improves simultaneously its profitability. Geberit has reached challenging goals like a 5% reduction of the overall environmental impact of their products during the last decade. Within the last five years even 6% were reached. Geberit is ranked as the most sustainable company in the world according to the german business magazin Wirtschaftswoche as they have fully integrated sustainability and productivity. Higher production volumes and 10 000 Tons of raw material savings at the same time is only one example for the economic benefits gained via improved ressource productivity.
So I look for more encouraging stories like Geberit beeing the world’s sustainability champion.