Sustainability Reporting: What is Just Right for your Organization?


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As the need to demonstrate sustainability continues to become more important for municipalities, companies, and institutions, voices demanding transparency and accountability are growing louder.

Disclosing sustainability planning efforts and results helps satisfy stakeholder demands for transparency. These efforts require a good deal of vision and strategy. Revealing too much or too little each has its own risks.

What do you do?
What protocols do you follow?
How do you spend your time and resources?

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Sustainability Reporting: What is Just Right for your Organization?

  1. 1. Concepts Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc. January 2013Sustainability Reporting: What is Just Right for your Organization?As the need to demonstrate sustainability allows them to demonstrate their interest in with respect to economic and socialcontinues to become more important for both the internal and external community; considerations.municipalities, companies, and institutions, it builds trust and promotes transparency;voices demanding transparency and and solicits feedback on performance from a Determining the best sustainability reportingaccountability are growing louder. diverse set of stakeholders. framework to adopt is dependent on your organization’s structure and objectivesDisclosing sustainability planning efforts and As a practical matter, there is no need to for reporting. Common frameworks likeresults helps satisfy stakeholder demands tackle every sustainability-related issue on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) arefor transparency. These efforts require a good the horizon. An organization should focus on well-suited for a multinational corporationdeal of vision and strategy. Revealing too its core value issues, or core performance but may be too lengthy and complex formuch or too little each has its own risks. indicators, that are relevant to its operations organizations like municipalities or small and activities. Determining the “materiality” businesses. ICLEI – Local Governments forWhat do you do? of each focus area Sustainability offers aWhat protocols do you follow? allows an organization to an organization should develop a tool-kit and guidance toHow do you spend your time and resources? use its limited resources relevant framework based on suitable its municipal members.Aggressive sustainability reporting protocols to analyze the issues protocols that is challenging and There are also sector- that will resonate withare being used by a variety of organizations its stakeholders. For helps it to identify, deliver, and track based frameworks that may be explored forand becoming commonplace to framecommunication with stakeholders. These instance: sustainable outcomes. universities, hospitals,standards focus on a customized mix of • A manufacturer could focus on improving and non-manufacturingsocial, economic, and environmental metrics the recycled content of its product companies. Protocols should be lookedor indicators (triple bottom line). The instead of investing in selected high-cost, upon as reference tools, not requirements.selected metrics or indicators are intended low-return alternative energy technology Because there are no mandatory or market-to increase transparency so stakeholders that does not support its core values. preferred protocols,have a better view of the organization’s true an organization should develop a relevant • A city could evaluate and report on framework based on suitable protocols thatperformance and ability to stay healthy in its “walkability,” which measures how is challenging and helps it to identify, deliver,the long term. These stakeholders include: a friendly an area is to walking, and and track sustainable outcomes.municipality’s residents and business owners; includes a variety of indicators such asa company’s customers and shareholders; or safety, access to businesses or schools, The major focus areas for measuringan institution’s patients, students, alumni, and connectivity to public green spaces. sustainability success include environmental,and faculty. economic, and social. • An institution might focus on theThe benefits to an organization that tackles efficiency of how it delivers core servicesquality sustainability reporting are clear: it
  2. 2. Pro Sustainability Planning in Practice le fit FTC&H is helping a diverse set of clients define sustainability plans and connect programs to their overall strategy. Our team of engineers and scientists are helping guide a collaborative op sustainability planning process of selected counties and cities in Michigan. These projectsPe help define and catalog the best planning practices and ultimately draw them together into a tool-kit for use by other communities. One of FTC&H’s large industrial clients needed help developing greenhouse gas inventories for its global manufacturing operations. This simple project demonstrated how interconnected the energy consumption and environmental issues Planet were. Management realized the need for more comprehensive sustainability planning, and they looked to FTC&H to provide support. Our integrated multidisciplinary teams developed programs to help the client satisfy its triple bottom line.TABLE 1 . Examples of Key Indicators Organization Type Desired Outcome Environmental Economic Social ty ipali Water consumption Cost of water supplied Number of annual nic Reliable water services u per capita per capita boil water alerts M i al Reduced energy in Greenhouse gas emissions, Greenhouse gas emissions u str Energy costs Ind manufacturing operations indexed to production avoided, in metric tons o n ati Stormwater managed onsite, Research dollars connected uc Green infrastructure Building energy index Ed gallons per year to green infrastructure h alt Improved medical waste Cost of waste management, He are management Waste generation, per patient per patient Community sharps program C all s Life cycle assessment Sm ines Business longevity Customer base diversity Management transition s of products or services Bu Many indicators fit into all present long case studies on programs provided. The results of the external categories depending on how they developed specifically to improve the verification can help an organization are defined by the organization organization’s sustainability. reevaluate and strengthen its framework and the metrics selected to define for future improvements. the baseline conditions and Organizations target outcomes. Examples of major focus area s for that develop Conclusion key metrics or indicators are in measuring sustainability and report on sustainability Careful sustainability planning and table 1. success include measures must reporting can enhance an organization’s It is most beneficial to include environmental, economic, be mindful it longevity and reputation. The key narrative and metrics for all is not a one- is to stay focused on sustainability three focus areas­ social, — and social. time effort. practices and indicators related to core economic, and environmental. How It takes consistent evaluation and values. Start small. Establish goals that much emphasis is placed on each attention. As an organization moves challenge the organization. Define and of the three areas will be guided by forward through its sustainability measure the key indicators early. Create the organization. The environmental planning and reporting activities, the a sensible path for the organization. effects of some organization qualitative naturally moves towards Stay focused on the triple bottom line. activities may be quite small and the quantitative. Complexity increases. further reducing them would make The meaning of its efforts and results For more information regarding little economic or social sense. increases. sustainable reporting, please contact Michele Buckler, P.E., LEED AP BD+C There is tremendous flexibility in To avoid some of the pitfalls how an organization can present to sustainability reporting, an its progress and results. Some organization could hire a third party organizations rely strictly on to verify the sustainability report. presenting goals and progress This may improve the credibility in the form of metrics. Others and transparency of the information