Learn more about ESG Reporting

How does an ESG benefit my business?

The top 10 features of a good ESG report

Together with our partner ESG PRO, we work with clients across Asia, the USA, and Europe. We believe the real need is to assist organisations who don’t have the resources of the global conglomerates because they’re finding a lack of affordable and effective resource.

There are vast numbers of small and medium-sized businesses as well as organisations which are in the not-for-profit sector, public bodies (such as schools), and other institutions whose efforts to improve can deliver significant improvements for society.

Undertaking ESG reporting makes every organisation stronger and more competitive. It’s as pertinent to a small law firm, builder, or school as it is to a ‘brand name’.

Why ESG is not a pass or fail?

The correct emphasis for ESG is continuous improvement. No organisation is perfect. And it’s because of this that we take our clients through to a formal ESG rating: an industry specific index which reflects where they are on their overall ESG journey.

Since ESG consulting is about guiding organisations as to how to have a positive impact upon the people they employ, the environment, and upon society as a whole, no one should fear a bad rating unless they truly do have some awful governance!

1. Self-contained

Your ESG report should be a stand-alone document which helps the reader understand the organisation, its management, and its impact. References for further reading are acceptable, but that data should merely be supplemental. 

2. Completeness

It is entirely unacceptable to not answer questions or provide data required by the reporting framework. Very few corporations produce reports which meet the mandatory requirements of the most common frameworks, which may be interpreted as being misleading since only an expert can spot such omissions.

3. Omissions must be justified

There are several permitted reasons for not providing data. These include such themes as there being lack of relevance, no data available, or a subject being out of scope. However, when reviewing an ESG report, a clear warning sign of risk is reading ‘not applicable’ or a blank field. 

4. Transparency

As any politician can demonstrate, bad news can be repackaged. Resist the temptation within your ESG report because openness – transparency – must be its hallmark. If your declarations appear to have been written by a lawyer, then you’ve almost certainly missed the mark. It’s noted that specific accounting statements are necessarily complex, but these must be the exceptions and not the rule.

5. Honesty and integrity

Governance is the most overlooked aspect of ESG, and yet it’s the most fundamental component. Good governance requires proper disclosure, and this demands a management team which ‘walks the talk’. Think of it as ‘the people-factor’: how you treat your employees and you customers? What of society as a whole? Ask Volkswagen!

6. Limited "management speak"

Clarity is a key feature of your ESG report, and it must be remembered that concepts such as ‘frameworks’, ‘stakeholders’, and ‘maturity curve’ are alien to many readers. Unfortunately, ESG has spawned 100’s of topic-specific acronyms, but where narratives statements are offered, strive to write clearly to the widest audience.

7. A hyperlink is not an answer!

The internet is awash with the ESG reports of global brands whose ESG reports are comprised of two hundred ESG questions to which more than half have no answer: there’s just a hyperlink to external data. This is unacceptable, and a fundamental breach of various frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative.

8. Statements must be based on evidence

Everything within your ESG report should be evidentiary based. Whatever the statement, ask: ‘Could we prove this if challenged?’ and ‘has this been documented?’. Within the EU and UK Sustainable Reporting Directives, expect legislation which puts the organisation and its officers are risk if false or misleading statements are made.

9. Beware of marketing ‘"fluff"

Take a look at various corporate reports and you’ll discover they incorporate extensive marketing pieces.

Don’t be caught out by permitting your marketing team to introduce exaggerations and beware of management teams too!

10. Don´t forget to update!

Your ESG reporting period will tend to coincide with your annual financial reports, but there’s no reason not to issue revisions as may be desired. Unlike so many of the ISO standards, your ESG report isn’t intended to sit on the shelf to be dusted off every three years. It’s all about continuous improvement and disclosure. Celebrate your updates!