Sustainability Reports: Who Actually Reads Them?

Global sustainable development consulting company SustainAbility and KPMG released a report earlier this year detailing the results from a survey conducted of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Readers’ Choice members.

Conducted from October 2007 through the end of January 2008, the Readers’ Choice Survey looks for the first time at the readers, their preferences and behaviour. Nearly 2300 readers and non readers from around the world answered the survey questions.

And some of their answers may surprise you.

According to survey results:

  • More readers use reports for active decision-making;
  • The reporting cycle includes continuous stakeholder dialogue around the core business agenda;
  • Sustainability information is more fully integrated into annual reports and other corporate communications;
  • The business case is robust and sustainability and innovation are clearly linked; and
  • Trust and reliability are addressed through globally accepted standards and stronger, more relevant assurance processes.
  • This feedback bolsters the idea that readers use sustainability reports in order to make decisions about companies (as potential clients, suppliers, customers), that the reports can improve a company’s image, and that information contained in the reports can help readers benchmark a company’s performance.

    One key that readers were looking for: a willingness of companies to report on bad news. When bad news is reported, greater legitimacy is attached to the report, and it is perceived as more balanced. Additional improvements included encouraging companies to use globally accepted standards, and greater utilization of assurance processes to provide greater credibility.

    Image Credit: A Pile of Annual Reports by azza-bazoo via Flickr’s Creative Commons

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