New research from EcoOnline drills into the ABCs of ESG reporting in the workplace
- 42% respondents admit their business has no ESG reporting system in place
- 50% regard ESG reporting as a box-ticking exercise
- 67% flag environmental activity as the highest priority for their organisation’s ESG reporting
- Two-thirds highlight their organisation does not produce a publicly available annual ESG or sustainability report
- 69% believed strong ESG measurement and reporting delivers better organisational performance
- Over a third of staff leading on ESG reporting have little or no relevant training to do so effectively
New research from EcoOnline, a leading technology platform for safer workplaces, reveals the findings from an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) survey conducted in June 2022 amongst 124 businesses.
The research found a significant minority of businesses are not actively reporting on ESG measures and performance, with 42% of survey participants disclosing that their organisation currently has no reporting system in place.
Even more concerning, 50% of those polled merely regarded ESG as a box-ticking exercise, indicating significant levels of employee disengagement with and disinterest in this important activity.
ESG reporting is the publication of data for the purposes of documenting an organisation’s ESG activities, and strengthening investor and customer transparency. It typically encompasses qualitative disclosures of relevant and pressing topics surrounding the three pillars of environmental, social and governance practices, and quantitative metrics used to measure performance and effectiveness of strategies.
As demand for clear and transparent disclosure on long-term ESG strategies grows, ESG reporting is an increasingly important tool for organisations to respond to evolving climate, social, cultural and compliance concern.
An increasing pressure for transparency
The study highlights a majority of employees felt organisational pressure to report ESG data had increased in the last three years, with environmental activity flagged as the highest priority (67%).
However, despite these expectations for greater transparency, two thirds of employees responding to the survey (66.7%) claimed their organisation does not produce a publicly available annual ESG or sustainability report. This suggests a concerning lack of clarity surrounding the execution and effectiveness of ESG strategies amongst those businesses surveyed.
With the majority of respondents believing pressure to report on environmental (80%), social (76%) and governance (73%) will increase over the next year, those who don’t make the investment now are putting themselves at financial and regulatory risk.
Fundamentally, it pays to be more responsible and transparent. Those organisations with robust ESG strategies have already demonstrated increased investment returns, lowered risks, and improved crisis resilience.
Organisations that are future-focused and proactive recognise how crucial it is to integrate ESG considerations into their business strategy and vision.
Reflecting the value of a strong ESG strategy to the business bottom line, the research shows that 69% of employees believed that where strong ESG measurement and reporting was in place, it had a positive impact on their organisation’s performance.
Responding to external forces
Companies are also facing pressure from external factors, with a growing public expectation that they should be directly addressing global challenges such as socioeconomic inequality and climate change.
A third of survey participants (30%) named stakeholders and investors as a significant source of pressure on their organisation to report on sustainability and ESG measures. However, the study also revealed that the biggest source of pressure came from customers, with 31.5% agreeing that customers play a vital role in holding companies to account over the climate crisis.
As UK Government legislation and official regulation becomes more stringent and stakeholder expectations increase, there is an increasing demand for corporations to disclose their long-term ESG commitments in an honest and direct manner. Customers, suppliers, employees, and investors all want to know what the organisation stands for and how dedicated it is to engaging with environmental and social issues.
Going through the motions
This introduces the next problem with current ESG reporting systems, raised by the results of EcoOnline’s recent study. As above, a staggering 50% employees surveyed felt ESG was merely a box-ticking task, while over a third of participants (37.4%) said that staff taking the lead in gathering and reporting ESG data in their organisation did not have sufficient training.
While demand for ESG reporting has ostensibly increased, there remains a considerable knowledge gap between ESG information and reporting. With so many varying ESG reporting standards and frameworks, as well as nonmandatory reporting requirements, it is no wonder that ESG has been nicknamed the “Alphabet Soup” of corporate reporting.
This is partly due to the plethora of voluntary reporting frameworks, principles and standards, and confused further by the abundance of acronyms that arise, the phrase has become synonymous with ESG reports.
Worryingly, a massive 75% of organisations surveyed in the study do not currently use software to ease the collection of ESG metrics.
To produce more effective and higher-value ESG reporting, it will be crucial for organisations to embrace digital management software. Specifically this will help better understand that reporting frameworks can be adjusted and adapted to movable ESG targets, and cherry-picked according to those best suited for the specific size, sector and complexity of the organisation.
Going forward, software solutions can help businesses to feel more confident in the integrity of underlying data sources used for ESG metrics, which in turn will inspire confidence in stakeholders and customers alike in the commitment to new targets. As the public become more conscious of greenwashing, it is imperative that ESG reporting is awarded enough significance.
Commenting on the research findings, Helene Melby Brodersen, head of ESG strategy at EcoOnline, says “It is clear from the results of the study that ESG transparency has and will continue to be a key focus for organisations across all sectors in 2022 and beyond.
“ESG reporting is a vital communication tool that plays an important role in convincing sceptical customers, as well as stakeholders and investors, that an organisation is taking meaningful and proactive action on issues which affect us all.
“Ultimately, ESG reporting is not just a box-ticking exercise, but is intended to inspire an organisation-wide commitment to generating sustainable long-term goals.”