Game On: Sustainability Experts Probe Materiality in Day1 of Open Online #ThinkTank

Game On: Sustainability Experts Probe Materiality in Day1 of Open Online #ThinkTank

Multimedia from this Release

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 11:00am

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Chats

CONTENT: Article

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On Monday, facilitator Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy launched the open online ThinkTank entitled Materiality Matters: Stakeholder Input in Materiality Analysis. “Over the next few days, we’ll be exploring the dynamic evolution of materiality determination in the face of recent and ongoing changes in sustainability disclosure frameworks,” said Dobkowski-Joy, President and COO of Framework LLC, which is hosting the exchange, in a video introduction. In its first day, the dialogue attracted over 20 sustainability experts from North and South America and Europe.

In the end, 'materiality' is about how we look at 'value creation'... [and] the flip side is true, too: 'value destruction' is a part of materiality assessments, which is why it's so important to look at actual impacts,” stated Marcy Murninghan, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Murninghan Post and lead author of the important 2013 AccountAbility report Redefining Materiality II. In response to the question on how the variations in definitions influence actual materiality determinations, Murninghan opined “It's too early to's a bit like pulling up flowers to see if the roots are right.”

To kick things off, Dobkowski-Joy posted a number of background sources, including materiality definitions from the foremost sustainability standards – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC – see section 3D), and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). She also posted a blog by Dwayne Baraka and an article by Dunstan Allison Hope and Guy Morgan of BSR.

Does this diversity of definitions create healthy diversity in the marketplace of ideas, or does this lack of harmonization hamper efforts to ensure consistency and comparability in companies’ approaches to materiality determination?” Dobkowski-Joy asked, to seed discussion.

High-profile support for the former (healthy diversity) came from Lisa French, IIRC's Technical Director - Guidance and Practice: “when urging harmonization, do recognize that these framework differences actually introduce complementarity rather than friction. They also give the marketplace some much needed choice in how to best communicate information,” she said.

Navigating these choices can be frustrating at first glance, but we’re here to help,” French added. “And ThinkTank discussions like these are extremely helpful in that regard…”

Day2 of the Materiality ThinkTank (Tuesday March 18) focuses on Defining Stakeholders, with background reading including The Commoditization of Materiality Feedback by Elaine Cohen.

Day3 (Wednesday March 19) examines Stakeholder Fatigue

Day4 (Thursday March 20) grapples with Practical Dilemmas.

Day5 (Friday March 21) looks ahead to The Future of Feedback.

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