Sep 04, 2015
By: Anna Himmelhuber and Aparna Venkatachalam
Canadian companies identify emerging sustainability reporting practices in Canada.
This summer, eight Canadian companies participated in the Global Compact Network Canada Reporting Peer Review Program. Over the course of several weeks, the participating companies (Barrick Gold, EDC, Enbridge, Goldcorp, TELUS, Scotiabank, Stantec, and WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff) were divided into two peer review groups, exchanged sustainability reports, and provided feedback to each other using a guided feedback template created by the Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC).
The GCNC Reporting Peer Review Program concluded with roundtable discussions where the participants identified and discussed in depth the findings, key emerging issues, best practices and areas for improvement.
The participating companies have named Canadian Telecom Provider, Telus, and the Canadian Gold mining company,Goldcorp Inc. as the winners of this year’s Global Compact Peer Review Distinction: Best Reports in the Group. The Peer Review Distinction award is provided to one company in each peer review group and is determined based on the total score submitted by participants. The key take-away, however, is that the feedback comes from practitioners, who provide hands-on and honest feedback that is invaluable for continuous improvement. Both TELUS and Goldcorp shared that the feedback received from the GCNC Peer Review Program in 2014 was what helped them make significant improvements in this year’s reports. Congratulations to all participants![/vc_column_text]
Emerging Reporting Practices in Canada
Canadian companies are increasingly implementing a transparent, inclusive, and robust materiality process involving their key internal and external stakeholders to gain insight on the relative importance of sustainability risks and opportunities facing the company. All of the reviewed companies used a materiality matrix to define and describe the materiality process and present the outcomes of the materiality analysis. It is, however, extremely crucial, to provide significant details to illustrate the process and the hierarchy of prioritized issues, including those identified as not material.
One emerging reporting practice witnessed is the increased accessibility of the majority of reports reviewed, which includes availability of information in multiple reporting formats, like the use of infographics or videos, suitable for different readers. Particularly the use of case studies was identified as a best practice during this Peer Review Session. Asking readers for feedback about the report can also be part of the stakeholder engagement process of a company.
Brevity implies focusing on the most relevant information and messages, and prioritizing quality over quantity. A common challenge for a reporting company is striking a balance between producing a comprehensive report, while ensuring the report is concise and navigable. The Peer Review roundtable identified several good practices to achieve this balance, including the use of summary documents to provide an overview of performance, interactive PDF reports that link to external sources of information, while minimizing report length and reducing information repetition, while providing users with access to relevant information.[/vc_column_text]
A few key points….
Global Compact Peer Review Distinction
“The effectiveness of a company’s sustainability report matches the extent to which sustainability is embedded into the company’s core strategy. If sustainability is a sideline that will come through in the reporting,” said Mary Ann Kenney, Manager CSR & Sustainability, Enbridge.
“It is a privilege to see how the reporting space is evolving and getting to better and better reporting. One of the things we at GCNC noticed, was the accessibility of the reports, where companies had the reader in mind and used accessible language and infographics to facilitate the understanding of what it is that the company is doing. That goes to the whole architecture of the content with consistent layout and structure, which makes it easy to navigate along with the use of multimedia, videos, and pictures. Clearly the focus on materiality is getting more and more into the reports. Some reports– and I think we will see that in the future – could be more transparent in regard to who is the intended audience, as well as the goal setting and tracking of the performance.“, said Helle Bank Jorgensen, President of the Global Compact Network Canada.
Good Practices and Examples Identified during this Peer Review Session
Participants agreed that Goldcorp’s 2014 Sustainability Report excelled in terms of its detailed presentation of information, which was well-structured, credible, externally assured, and highly consistent. Goldcorp’s report includes case studies that relate to their top material topics in all the main sections of the report – a reporting practice which enhances information and makes the report more palatable for the average reader.
Here is one example of a case study used by Goldcorp:
Reviewers overwhelmingly agreed that TELUS’ Sustainability Report 2014 impressively showcased how the use of links to external sources of information, like policy documents and reports, as well as the use of different media channels, e.g. videos, can provide users with access to all relevant information and still keep the report organized and easy to navigate, while minimizing report length and reducing information repetition. Additionally, the linkage of TELUS’s GRI Index to the sustainability report and other corporate documents was identified as a good reporting practice.
Example of TELUS’ GRI index:
Export Development Canada (EDC)
EDC’s 2014 CSR Report was recognized for its balanced sustainability reporting, which can help in building stakeholder trust, e.g., by mapping specific GRI topics to leadership roles in the organization. Reviewers also agreed that EDC’s approach of engaging readers through multi-media formats such as using videos to communicate a story was an innovative and a highly effective way of reporting.
Video Credits published by EDC:
Participants identified Scotiabank’s practice of illustrating different material aspects with case studies effectively frames and provides adequate context around sustainability data and performance and should be mainstreamed. Their reporting practice in the 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report of integrating GRI/UNGC index numbers on each page helped the readers and stakeholders in extracting key information easily.
Barrick’s 2014 Responsibility Report excelled in effectively reporting key ESG issues and material aspects by having a separate detailed and complete Material Topics report. The report succeeded in striking a balance between producing a comprehensive report, while ensuring the report is concise and navigable by using design, images and infographics to enhance the meaning of information.
Here is an example of one of Barrick’s infographics:
Source: http://barrick.com/files/responsibility/2014-Responsibility-Report.pdf p.20
Reviewers highlighted that Enbridge’s 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report provides a good reporting practice by using GRI4 guidelines and identifying material issues with structured discussions around each of these issues. Additionally the functionality of their mobile site and their creative reporting format makes the experience of exploring its content appealing and interesting.
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s 2014 Sustainability Report was recognized for its “Our Business Success” section, which made it easy to see the progress in the company, while keeping the report succinct. In addition, reviewers agreed that that WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s practice of integrating people profiles is unique and helps to personalize some of the CSR and sustainability practices. This made the report appealing to a broad spectrum of audiences.
Here is a screen capture of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s people profiles:
Source: http://cdn.wspgroup.com/s8etby/sustainabilityreport_eng_v13.pdf p.66
Reviewers agreed that the use of external assessments from third parties is an emerging and effective reporting practice because it helps to link management approaches to actions and performance and can substantiate statements and claims. This aspect was appealing for reviewers in Stantec’s 2014 Sustainability Report. In addition, Stantec excelled in producing a concise report of its sustainability strategies and focus areas.
Where to From Here: Areas for Improvement
Balance: Unbalanced reporting can undermine the credibility of a report and ultimately harm a company’s reputation. With many Canadian companies struggling to achieve balance in reporting on positive and negative sustainability performance, balanced communication is a key area of improvement.
Targets and commitments: Critical to delivering a company’s strategy and enabling annual reporting on progress, goalsetting and tracking of the performance is a main area of improvement. Many companies are beginning to combine targets and commitments with aspirational, long-term objectives and stretch targets.[/vc_column_text]
What did the participants gain from the process?
“Having a panel of sustainability reporting experts from across industries review and provide feedback on TELUS’ Sustainability Report is very valuable. This would not be possible without the support of the Global Compact Network Canada team and its participating member organizations. Continuous improvement is something we strive for and the insights gained from this process reflect our commitment to listening to our stakeholders and incorporating their feedback, including, how we report our progress on our material issues. We are very pleased to win the Global Compact Peer Review Distinction of Best Report in Group and I strongly encourage other organizations to take part in this program” –Geoff Pegg, Director of Sustainability at TELUS
telus and goldcrop
“This Program has been great for us. We participated last year, we did it again this year and intend to continue, primarily because it provides a lot of value to us in the process. We got very useful feedback last year. We were able to implement some of the suggestions into our report, and combined with a more formal process of sustainability reporting and disclosure across the company, the outcome was a more cohesive report, I am glad that some of the feedback we received reflects those changes” – Stephanie Tissot, CSR Analyst, Goldcorp
telus and goldcrop
“It’s been an incredibly beneficial process, and the level of expertise that everyone around the table right now has with reporting is exceptional. It’s valuable for us to learn from the lessons and insights that the other reporters share through the review process. I am grateful for the feedback we received. We are taking the feedback to heart as we begin to plan for a unified WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff report for next year”- Emily Partington, Project Director, Sustainability & Energy, WSP Group
telus and goldcrop
“Thanks very much to the Global Compact Network for arranging this exercise. The value of this exercise is that the comments are coming from professionals who really understand what a good quality CSR report looks like and what it should convey. We always take the feedback and try to act on it the following year. We have participated in the Peer Review Process for two years and coming back the second year shows how much value we get out of it”. – Yolanda Banks, Senior Advisor CSR, EDC
“This is our second year participating in this peer review process. We find this exercise to be very useful and we value the input we receive from our peers. The depth and breadth of knowledge around the table is incredible. We take the feedback we receive very seriously and look forward to using it to further advance CSR/sustainability discussions in our Company and improve our reporting each year. Thank you to the Global Compact Network Canada for facilitating this important exercise. We look forward to participating again in the future.” –Melissa Peneycad, Associate, Sustainable Development, Stantec
telus and goldcrop
“We have learned a lot through our participation in Global Compact Network Canada’s Reporting Peer Review Program. The people who give us feedback are experts that are helping us take our reporting to the next level. It’s also been great to have a forum at which we can share ideas.” – MaryAnn Kenney, Manager, CSR & Sustainability, Enbridge
telus and goldcrop
Interested in participating or learning more about the GCNC Reporting Peer Review Program?
Contact Global Compact Network Canada Program Manager Aparna Venkatachalam (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sign up or learn more: Sign up to GCNC’s mailing list to receive all of our important updates. telus and goldcrop
We are looking at exploring the idea of hosting a second session in the Fall 2015. Please contact Aparna should you be interested in participating.