3BL Media Webinar Replay: "The Evolution of Sustainability Reporting and Disclosure: A Primer for Communications Professionals"

3BL Media Webinar Replay: "The Evolution of Sustainability Reporting and Disclosure: A Primer for Communications Professionals"

By Dave Armon


A fast-approaching deadline for G4 reporting guidelines, a new exam for sustainability accounting certification and tricks of the trade for corporate communicators were shared during this week’s 3BL Media webinar on sustainability reporting.

We are pleased to share a recap of the April 7 event, including a video archive, featuring the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and AECOM.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 3:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Communications Webinar Series


GRI to require use of G4 guidelines in 2016

The clock is ticking for corporations who use GRI’s G3 or G31 guidelines. 

Effective January 1, 2016, all reports will need to adhere to the most current guidelines, G4, according to Shivani Rajpal, managing of training and coaching programs for the Amsterdam-based organization. Details here.

Rajpal, who led the 3BL Media webinar on sustainability reporting for communications professionals, shared statistics on the number of companies that had already made the transition to G4 in 2014. 

GRI also extended an invitation to corporate executives to participate in two initiatives.

A revamped “organizational stakeholder program” is launching, and additional sustainability reporting pros are being recruited.  The initial effort included 600 executives from 65 countries and 40 industry sectors, said Rajpal.

An additional opportunity for engagement with GRI involves corporate leadership groups. 

“They play a central role in enriching the discussions around integrated reporting,” said Rajpal, who urged interested executives to contact Nikki McKean-Wood, GRI’s director corporate and stakeholders relations at mckean@globalreporting.org

During her presentation, Rajpal emphasized the iterative approach most companies take when first reporting on sustainability, gradually adding additional detail based on the feedback they receive from key constituencies.

“The first time reporters have very limited information to report on.  But by doing stakeholder engagement exercises, they gain insights into what expectations are,” Rajpal said. “The main game for sustainability reporting is not to have a report, but to actually have a report that makes sense for the stakeholders.”

SASB to offer Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting certification

Sharpen those #2 pencils.  There’s a new examination rolling out for sustainability professionals interested in formal certification for their skills. 

San Francisco-based SASB announced during the 3BL Media webinar that early bird registration, at the discounted price of $200, is now open for the inaugural “Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting” accreditation test in May.

“Anyone who takes and passes the credential exam is able to demonstrate that they can identify, quantify and communicate the financial impacts of sustainability,” said Nicolai Lundy, manager of education for SASB, adding that the FSA designation is expected to be helpful for the career development of corporate communications pros.

SASB, launched in 2012, has established sustainability accounting standards for about 50 industries that comprise 80 percent of the market capitalization of U.S.-based publicly traded companies, Lundy said. 

SASB has proposed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that companies be required to communicate their sustainability information as part of the management discussion and analysis (MD&A) section of the Form 10k currently being filed with the regulator.  The SEC has yet to rule on the request.

No company is reporting in this fashion as of today, a fact Lundy attributes to the lengthy legal and regulatory review corporations must undertake before supplementing financial reporting with sustainability data. 

“They need a long runway,” he said.

AECOM stresses engagement around sustainability

Gathering information on sustainability across the 150 countries where AECOM operates takes place all year long.  Even producing the annual sustainability report takes four months.

Given the massive time and resource commitment, the communications team at AECOM goes to great lengths to make sure the many success stories surrounding sustainability are shared through multiple channels, and over an extended period, with the company’s 100,000 employees.

“The importance of keeping stakeholders engaged is at an all time high, which is why breaking your sustainability report into digestible pieces on a continuous basis is crucial,” said Chinyere Ojini, a communications specialist with the Los Angeles-based infrastructure and support services firm.

Ojini, speaking during 3BL Media’s webinar, walked attendees through the process her team undertook to release its May 2014 report.

Starting with a soft launch on the company’s external web site, AECOM promoted the report using a moving carousel that included impactful videos and messages from the CEO and chief sustainability officer.

Senior management received an executive summary and the ability to download the full report in advance of the formal launch, said Ojini.  Each of the company’s employees received an e-card and link to the report as part of the hard launch.

External audiences were alerted via a press release distributed by 3BL Media, coinciding with a social media campaign on platforms including Facebook, Linkedin/Slideshare, Chatter, Google+ and Twitter, Ojini said. 

AECOM’s internal newsletter included excerpts from conversations taking place in social media about the report, using the Storify platform.

Care was taken to provide AECOM managers with talking points and concrete steps on how to share the sustainability focus across all geographies, Ojini said.

“We are really encouraging employees to promote the report among their clients as well as among their teams,” she said.

In Malaysia, for example, a project manager whose work won an internal award wrote a blog post that AECOM featured on its own blog and distributed to global CSR and sustainability audiences via 3BL Media.

The blog post and all digital assets associated with the sustainability report were compiled in a campaign page on the 3BL Media platform.

“All the content is there.  It’s the one place.  This really allows us to break down the content into bite sized pieces for our stakeholders,” she said, adding that AECOM also used new 3BL templates emphasizing images over text.

When asked during the webinar about the return on investment AECOM sees from sustainability reporting, Ojini indicated prospective customers use the data when evaluating her firm over competitors.

“The business development team pulls information from the report when submitting proposals for projects,” she said. “They use the sustainability report to kind of prove that we are offering sustainable services.”