Growth of Sustainability Reporting Reflects Growth of Green, Social, and Environmental Issues

Little noticed, more companies in the U.S. and around the world are issuing sustainability reports today than ever before.

In 2010, only 19 percent of the Standard and Poor’s 500 companies had published regular sustainability reports. By 2015, that number had jumped to 75 percent.

While they can vary with some companies still focusing only on their use of natural resources, typically a sustainability report presents the economic, environmental, and social impacts that result from an organizations everyday activities, according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

“The report is designed to help an organization  measure, monitor, understand, and then communicate their economic, environmental, and social performance,” says Stephen Ashkin, CEO of the Sustainably Dashboard, an online tool that allows administrators to measure a facilities sustainability metrics. “This also allows them to set goals, reduce costs, and manage change more effectively.”

While this explains what a sustainability report is, it does not tell us why so many more companies are issuing these reports. According to Ashkin, there are several reasons, including the following:

Fosters company trust. “Sustainability disclosures give consumers, investors, employees, and others more transparency about an organization…this usually results in greater trust.”

Access to capital. Many organizations report that the added transparency that results form publishing sustainability reports has helped make it easier for them to attract investors

Enhances a company’s reputation. A 2013 Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship survey revealed that more than 50 percent of respondents issuing sustainability reports reported it helped improve their organization’s reputation.

Increased employee loyalty. Studies have found that current employees are a primary audience for their company’s sustainability report and issuing one helps build employee loyalty

“Good Marks” lower costs. A positive sustainability report characteristically means a company or organization is well run, with enhanced efficiencies that help reduce operating costs, has minimal waste, and is very environmentally responsible.

“Interestingly, some studies indicate that a more sustainable company finds their decision making processes are more efficient,” adds Ashkin. “Likely it’s a reflection of management quality. Better managed companies tend to be more sustainable and more effectively operated.”