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How to Gain Value from Sustainability Reporting

graff, susan, resource recycling systemsSustainability reporting offers the opportunity to give an intensive examination of a company’s environmental footprint and business strategy. This presents a unique opportunity for those with a vision to seize it. Sustainability reporting can be a galvanizing moment for creating internal alignment and igniting innovation to better serve customer requirements and grow new business. Industry leaders across manufacturing and commercial services have provided great examples of this – from Interface carpet tiles and Skanska’s sustainability agenda for construction, to 3M adhesives designed to reduce points of impact throughout the product life cycle. These forward thinking product strategies also improved competitiveness, business continuity and resilience.

So do not file away your CDP, GRI, or other sustainability report as another completed “check the box” exercise. Instead capitalize on the newly heightened awareness your sustainability reporting has brought you.

With over 2,800 company responses, an 18% increase year over year, the 2013-2014 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Supply Chain Report touched more companies than in years past. In particular, many small to mid-market companies are examining their contribution to their customers’ environmental impacts for the first time, alongside the larger consumer product companies selling to b2b customers.

The CDP supply chain program currently includes over 60 member companies with extensive supply chains – from Abbott Labs to Walmart. The program collects business-critical climate change information, starting with management’s strategic roles in allocating resources and responsibility. It goes on to examine the entire enterprise risk management (ERM) process to identify and measure climate-related risks and opportunities. These risks cut two ways – how your business contributes to climate change via production of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in operations and supply chain, and how your business will be potentially impacted by physical risks such as water scarcity, flooding, etc.

Another major sustainability reporting framework is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). This framework is structured to identify material aspects, their impact inside or outside the organization, and their indicators or quantitative metrics.

Here’s how to use sustainability reporting as a catalyst for making significant and useful changes that will return value to your company, stakeholders, and customers.

Define Current State

Your data and strategy assessment against CDP, GRI, and other sustainability reporting requirements provides a baseline measurement that shows exactly where you stand today. This baseline should serve as the foundation for focused, strategic decisions today and the company’s vision for the future. While the baseline will include a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, it should also provide indicators for the sources of these emissions where measurable business benefits are found – energy use, water consumption, waste and recycling. For example, General Motors reported eliminating 10 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions in one year through reuse and recycling, and estimates revenues of about $1 billion/year from annual byproduct recycling and reuse.

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