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Sustainability reporting improves overall but balancing requirements with stakeholder needs remains a challenge

Progress has been made in sustainable corporate reporting and disclosure, but there is rising pressure to balance stakeholder needs with the increased disclosure requirements, according to research from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The 2017 Reporting Matters research looked at 157 sustainability reports from WBCSD member companies across 20 sectors and 35 countries and found that 74% improved in their overall score compared to 2013. Although, there are actually less reports entitled sustainability reports (41%) than there were in 2013 (57%), reports are compliant with more disclosure requirements, including for voluntary disclosure.

Examples of best practice and benchmarks for the past five years were provided, such as the GRI guidelines and standards which are still the most widely used, being cited by 85% of the member companies and 18% have already adopted the new GRI Standards. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations were outlined as a driver of increased climate change reporting.

In terms of combining financial and non-financial information, 34% said that they currently do so, an increase from 23% in 2013, and 22% cited the Integrated Reporting Framework in their reports. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was acknowledged by 79%, and 45% said that they align strategy with goal level criteria. Additionally, 44% go beyond a PDF report and include online content, up from 23% in 2014.

WBCSD CEO and president Peter Bakker said: “There is clear progress towards transformative change. The trend toward online and integrated reporting is moving non-financial reporting further into the mainstream – positioning sustainability at the heart of corporate governance, financial and risk management.”

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