Key Point 4: Governance for reporting
How should you report on the management of your internal ways of working?
- Do you have an advisory board?
- Do you have policies and processes in place for pay scales?
- Do you have policies and processes in place for suppliers?
- Do you have a sustainable development policy?
- How can you ensure that your data is accurate and valid?
- How will you communicate your report honestly and openly?
- You may wish to consider an external check or "assurance" of your report
Fiona Pelham goes into more detail in this video, and you can read a transcript below.
I am now going to talk about two areas of potential governance for your report.
Firstly, you may want to think about internal ways of working and the governance that you have for those ways of working. For example, do you have an advisory board for your company or event? Are those board members paid by your company or event? Do you have policies and processes in place to ensure that your higher, top management staff is paid proportionately compared to your other staff members? Do you have clear processes in place for how you are dealing with your supply chain?
These are all examples of good governance. Remember that your report readers may expect you to have these systems in place. If you are doing ISO 20121, you will have policies and processes to address good governance. These will be related to your sustainable development principles.
As well as internal governance, it is worth thinking about external governance. So when you release your report, how are you proving to people that this report is genuine, transparent, and you are taking an honest, open approach?
If you are using GRI EOSS, you may want to apply for a GRI application check. This means that GRI will check that you are reporting on the content that you state that you are, and they will provide you with information on the level of reporting that you have achieved: A, B, or C.
If you are a smaller event or company, and just starting off with a smaller report, remember that one way that your report readers will think that your report is very open and honest is if you communicate it widely, through a number of communication channels.
Once you have written your report, it makes sense to take an honest and open approach to communicating it as widely as possible.
Rather than just keeping the report internal, you may want to put it on websites, use social media to communicate it, and share it with your stakeholders, such as your supply chain.
To provide more context for your report, you can include information on how your organization is managed (including the highest authorities that influence your organization). This can also cover how you select the people who manage your organization, and who these people are (for example their gender breakdown).
The understanding that your employees have around sustainability and your reporting mechanisms, and how you ensure that they are kept up to date with the information that they need.
What systems are in place to obtain feedback from interested parties, including employees, management or directors? Your report should include information on how you have engaged with these stakeholders to ensure their opinions are taken into account.
You may wish to have an external individual or organization check that your report contains all of the information that it should. This is especially relevant if you are using a recognised framework such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
This presentation provides more detail on governance for reporting. You can read a summary of the presentation below.
Internal ways of working
You should think about the ways of working that you have in place to ensure that there is the correct management and oversight in relation to your reporting processes. How do you work in terms of gathering data? How do you decide what to report on? By demonstrating the decision process and systems that you have in place, you can show report readers that you are providing reliable, accurate and informative data.
Your internal ways of working are also relevant to help you to report efficiently, for example, having a process to identify what data is already being collected so that you are not creating additional tasks. Where possible try to align your reporting to your ways of working and any targets or objectives that you are aiming for. If you are operating to ISO 20121, your reporting processes can be included within your management system.
Firstly, staff should understand the reasons for and benefits of reporting and collecting data. It is also important that the people collecting that data are aware of any requirements or restrictions that apply, and be willing to share the methodology to be included in the report. A higher level of staff awareness can also lead to greater input into sustainability initiatives. For example, if one department has successfully reduced waste and electricity, then this can be included in the report and inspire other departments to do the same.
Staff who are external facing should also be aware of your sustainability reporting, so that when they are representing your organisation they can talk confidently about the leadership that you are demonstrating and the successes (and challenges) that you have faced.
We have already mentioned consulting interested parties to establish what you will report on. Remember that your staff are also interested parties so they should be included in the process. You should be open about the methods used and the responses that you have received. If you can show that you have engaged with a wide range of interested parties, this will demonstrate your transparency and inclusivity as an organisation.
If you would like to have the extra security of having your report checked externally then there are options available. For example, if you use the GRI EOSS framework, then the Global Reporting Initiative will (for a fee) verify that you have correctly reported to a particular level. There are also free and paid for templates that you can download to check your report covers all of the content that you want it to.
It’s a good idea to have someone who has not been directly involved with the report do the checking, as they will have a more objective approach and be more able see it through the eyes of a report reader.
Communicating your report
The reasons that you are reporting are likely to include a desire to showcase your sustainability performance to add value and demonstrate leadership, so there is no point in creating a report which is not shared. You therefore need to plan how you will communicate your report.
You can share it via your organisation’s website, through email marketing channels and social media; if you have used a recognised reporting framework then you can contact the company or body that oversees the framework to ask if they would be interested in sharing your report. You can also work with other organisations, for example your sponsors, to communicate your sustainability credentials. You may also wish to communicate your report back to all of the interested parties that you engaged with in the consultation stages.
If your report is particularly large, you may wish to create a summary of the highlights to be used at part of your communications, and then direct readers to your full report to find out more.
Remember that sustainability is a journey and so you should not stop sharing or communicating once your first report has been published. And you don’t have to wait until your next formal report to communicate your sustainability initiatives, so start sharing as much as you can!
London 2012's second, pre-Games report looked at whether the targets from the London 2012 Sustainability Plan (2009) are being achieved. This report covers the 2011 calendar year, and its focus is on a pre-Games view of the programme. It is London 2012's first report prepared using the Global Reporting Initiative's Event Organizers Sector Supplement (GRI EOSS) which truly marks a step change in sustainability reporting within the event industry.
Decide whether you would like external assurance for your report
You may wish to have the content of your report verified externally - this could be a formal assurance, for example if you are producing a GRI report then there is a check available from GRI. This could also be a less formal review of your report, by a stakeholder or external body that specialises in sustainability reporting. They will be able to provide an objective view about any areas for improvement before you publish your report.
Plan how you will communicate your report
Creating the report is one step, but it becomes much more useful once it is communicated to others to demonstrate your leadership and share best practice. Consider how you will promote your report and its content; will you need a press release or event? Will you use social media? Will it be included in any newsletters that you produce?