Show me the money, because that's what really matters

20 September 2011
Last week, the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC) launched a position paper calling for a change to the way businesses report performance to shareholders. In short, the paper called for all the reports and disclosures that a company makes throughout the year to be combined into one easy-to-read and easy-to-assess report that covers financial, sustainable and operational performance. Now, ok, it's hardly surprising that the IIRC believes that we should use integrated reporting, seeing as it’s in its name, but leaving the potentially tunnelled view to one side, it's really quite a nifty idea. For a company to train up suppliers on how to cut emissions, make changes to the packaging process or simply measure the level of emissions produced in a certain production line requires a number of things. And I'd hazard a guess that almost all of them cost money. Whether its investing in new equipment, hiring an external auditor or simply having to divert resources, no initiative of any note comes for free. In order for businesses to truly be weighed and measured against their efforts to become more sustainable, we need to know how hard it’s hitting their bottom line because at the end of the day, that what matters most. It's also important to see the financial benefits of such initiatives. While reducing the amount of waste in a certain product line will take time and money to fully implement, the long-term results will more than likely produce significant savings. And that, in my eyes, is the best way to drive sustainability through the corporate world. We need to get away from this airy fairy notion that companies are cutting emissions out of the goodness of their own hearts. CSR reports need to stop being a vessel for PR bods to wax lyrical and start being a podium for procurement and finance to say, “by making this change to the supply chain we've cut out this much carbon, but far more importantly we've saved some serious dough”.
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