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News on GRI Sustainability Reporting, Verification & Assurance, CDP Reporting

25 Apr

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Challenges and Benefits of Sustainability Reporting within the African context

April 25, 2016 | By |

Stimulating Progress: The Challenges & Benefits of Sustainability Reporting –
Write Up in Advance of Sustainable Brands South Africa

April, 2016—Studies suggest that non-financial reporting, otherwise known as sustainability reporting, “can build public trust, increase efficiency and mitigate risks, while also boosting stakeholder confidence, trust and loyalty.” But how can one document serve so many interests? The secret lies within the underlying systems that support non-financial reporting efforts.

Professionals in this blooming industry often refer to the practices undertaken in other countries to assess best practices. Aside from seasoned reporters, many have encountered a prolonged discovery phase where they are primarily focused on understanding the various concepts at hand, defining the sustainability vision for the company and determining what’s relevant.

Regardless of an organization’s reporting journey status, we’ve found the following challenges hinder organizations’ capacity to leverage the value that comes from sustainability reporting. By coming to terms with these universal challenges, reporters can transform barriers into leadership opportunities.

Challenges and Benefits of Sustainability Reporting
Challenge recommendation
Alignment
  • Couple proven frameworks and industry benchmarks with compliance measures.
  • Educate personnel on a sustainability management plan detailing reporting mechanisms, roles and cadence for quality controls will help reduce discrepancies.
———– ———–
Connectivity
  • Connect issues to demonstrate a holistic view of the factors that affect the organization’s ability to create value over time, including financials and the interrelatedness to material non-financial measures.
  • Strengthen the relationship between environmental matters and overall corporate strategy, performance and prospects, while providing context for how data is managed and what’s missing.
———– ———–
Purpose
  • Assess organizational objectives, priorities and how solid disclosure will advance sustainability across the organization and beyond.
  • Make non-financial reporting strategic by build on emerging best practices for assessing risks, pursuing opportunities and enabling prompt mitigation efforts.
  • Establish protocols to maintain momentum and leverage marketplace recognition.

Transparency gained through reporting has enabled groups like AngloGold Ashanti to both address community conflicts and promote the social and environmental legacy changes the company is enacting. For instance, the South African-based company has introduced a two pronged strategy for environmental mine management; the first being “do no harm” and the second “managing legacies, including historical pollution and its impacts.” Toward this goal, the Company has sought approval by Ghana’s EPA for its new water management plan, sought to improve its waste management sites in and around the community, and is moving forward with plans to rehabilitate and clean up abandoned mining sites. By recognizing inherent and potential risks, the Company has established more focus dialogue with key stakeholders and advanced mitigation efforts. The sustainability report is a tool employed to continue that dialogue and demonstrate performance per commitments made.

Though groups like AngloGold Ashanti have already begun to inform strategy through the wide lens of sustainability, full integration has yet to be mastered. According to published results of a survey conducted by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in April 2015 3 , the practice of integrated reporting in South Africa has stimulated integrated thinking, but there is still a huge learning curve. A deeper level of understanding an experiential learning is necessary to derive benefits in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Beginning to untangle the carefully woven webs of issues, relevance, influencers and responsibilities require a systematic approach to connecting performance measures to strategic long-term objectives…and it’s no easy task. Sustainability reporting has significantly evolved since it was first introduced to the world by a few innovators in the 1990’s, but it’s no longer enough to pursue incremental change. We need disruptive, structural and fully integrated in organizations globally. It’s this move that will transform our ability to meet larger international objectives, realize the benefits associated with strategic sustainability and ring in a brighter tomorrow.

Interested in learning more? Join ISOS Group at Sustainable Brands, May 14-17 in Cape Town South Africa! We’ll be delivering a 3 hour hands-on session on alignment toward reporting efficacy!

FIND OUT MORE ->

09 Mar

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The California Issues & Trends Program (CIT)

March 9, 2016 | By |

San Diego-based Sustainability Pioneer Recognized by California Women’s Leadership Program

March 9, 2016—Leadership California recently selected Nancy Mancilla, Co-Founder of ISOS Group as a member of the Class of 2016 for its 2016 California Issues & Trends Program (CIT). This is a prestigious, yearlong program for 60 women leaders from across the state of California, which kicked off a few days ago in the C.A. State Capitol.

The California Issues & Trends Program provides focused programming for women leaders, exposing them to critical public and private sector issues and enhancing their competitive knowledge on California from state, national and global perspectives. It connects women leaders from across the state with each other and with top decision-makers, thought leaders and practitioners. It promotes creativity and innovation through the sharing of ideas and best practices. The 1,500 Alumnae of the CIT are empowered to contribute more fully to California’s vision for the future and to the communities and companies in which they live and work.

Leadership California began in 1992 with a dream to inspire, inform, and advance women leaders who would influence California’s future. It provides a critical pathway for successful women who care about advancement, achievement, and significance. These women are not only talking about change, but plan to be part of making it happen. Alumnae serve on nonprofit boards and are knowledgeable appointees for State boards and commissions.

About ISOS Group

ISOS is a collaborative sustainability enterprise that helps drive value creation for the world’s most innovative brands. We evaluate where our clients are and plot a course for where they want to be, through responsible business practices that make a lasting contribution to the well-being of their stakeholders and the planet at large. ISOS specializes in Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), GRESB and CDP disclosures, external assurance of CSR reports, and verification of GHG emissions and climate change data. ISOS Group’s long time status as GRI Certified Training Partners and CDP Silver Consultancy and Education Partners in the U.S. positions the group as practice experts—shaping credible reporting efforts in line with the world’s leading sustainability standards.

About Nancy Mancilla– As ISOS Group’s Co-Founder, Nancy has played a key role in mobilizing non-financial disclosure in the United States. She’s orchestrated 70+ Certified Trainings, co-taught MBA programs, regularly serves as a conference guest speaker and caters to industry roundtables by providing knowledge of the reporting process. Further, she has conducted numerous sustainability assessments, provided reporting guidance and completed external assurance activities for many of the world’s best-known Fortune 500’s.

Prior to co-starting ISOS, Nancy assisted Winrock International in developing their sustainability services and led numerous micro-economic development projects related biodiversity, agronomics and renewable energy. She also developed an innovative technique to analyze the sustainability of Winrock’s hydroelectric projects in the Republic of Georgia as opposed to Russian energy sources. Previous positions included the Little Rock City Mayor’s Sustainability Commission, Arkansas Clean Cities Coalition and the Arkansas Biofuels Alliance. Nancy earned her B.A. in International Relations (IR) with a Minor in Environmental Studies from the U.S. International University in San Diego, California. She also holds a M.A. in IR from the University of Amsterdam, as well as an inaugural M.P.S. (Public Service) from the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Arkansas where she dedicated her work to issues of sustainability.

Her work has earned her a position in the 2016 Leadership California cohort, the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern California Sustainable Business Council and finalist status in the 2014 San Diego Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business Award.

For additional details about this year’s Leadership California cohort, click here  or contact the organization directly at: info@leadershipcalifornia.org

For additional details concerning Nancy Mancilla and/or ISOS Group activities, please submit inquiries to: info@isosgroup.com.

07 Mar

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CSR reporting still relevant in 2016

March 7, 2016 | By |

The old reasons for CSR Reporting are still relevant.

All the great work that organizations are doing to up their game as it relates to sustainability and corporate social responsibility are increasingly communicated using CSR or Sustainability reporting. These reports come in many flavors and each addresses different needs, different stakeholder groups and different levels of engagement.

For a comprehensive look at sustainability activities many organizations globally are turning to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as a comprehensive framework for communicating triple bottom line activities. For foundational guidance, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) providing a set of 10 driving principles toward a more sustainable future, AccountAbility’s array of manuals, and Integrated Reporting provide other complimentary examples of comprehensive non-financial reporting platforms.

For targeted reporting on specific issues or issue categories there are many frameworks and standards to chose from. One example is CDP, which provides a framework for Climate Change, Water, Supply Chain and Forestry reporting through their programs that target each of these issues. Others include the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and its Code of Conduct, along with the Sustainable Apparel coalition, to name a few, provide industry-specific standards. While, finally, SASB is an example of a reporting framework targeted to a specific stakeholder audience, that is also regional- it targets US companies and SEC filings to promote non-financial reporting.

Though the list has been getting longer, the need to communicate to the increasing variety of stakeholders remains relevant. Investors present one of the most prominent stakeholder groups requesting access to organizational performance on sustainability issues. This is prompted in part by the evidence that organizations that focus on these issues perform better in the marketplace. There are other stakeholders as well including customers and potential customers, suppliers, employees and potential employees. Sustainability engagement can be positive to brand image and reporting is a way to communicate that.

But…

Increasingly organizations are engaging in reporting not as a means for communicating to their stakeholders, but as a way to deepen their engagement with the topics that this reporting represents. Reporting serves to focus attention on certain aspects of the business by providing a framework for establishing targets and goals and the metrics that measure performance against them.

The Responsible Business Summit in preparation for their New York meetings recently highlighted several priorities for top responsible businesses. We have found these same things to be important for organizations and adapt them here to discuss the relevance of sustainability reporting in our current workplace.

1. Strategic Integration – Reporting on triple bottom line activities adds visibility across the organization to the potential that sustainability offers including financial success, brand, and an engaged workforce. This visibility provides opportunities to integrate these activities with the strategic direction of the organization in order to meet organizational goals.

2. Collaboration – Reporting requires frequent collaboration between silos within the organization and with stakeholders outside the organization. In fact, the process of preparing a report brings groups and individuals together that would not often have a cause to work closely. This stimulates innovation and productivity.

3. Prioritization – Reporting helps to prioritize what is most important in the organization based on strategic objectives but also based on key impacts. This helps to keep a fresh eye on both potential risks and emerging opportunities and avoids an isolationist mentality.

4. Purposeful Work – Studies show that work with a purpose provides numerous positive results for organizations including increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, individual performance and decrease in absenteeism and stress. Sustainability reporting engages employees by enabling them to apply their skills towards something meaningful not only for the financial success of the organization, but for something much larger and more long standing. Engaging in sustainability reporting serves to highlight this higher purpose and connects the organization to it as well. This is particularly important to millennials.

So, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, YES- CSR reporting is still relevant but the reasons for its relevance are expanding. It continues to be an important signaling and communication mechanism for stakeholders but it also serves a more institutional purpose as well. Organizations are telling us that these institutional issues are taking precedent over the communication as the dominant reason for reporting. What does this mean? Perhaps less glossy marketing pieces and more living and changing working documentation of activities with simple targeted communication pieces are in our future.