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Mainstream Sustainability Reporting Frameworks

This “Mainstream Sustainability Reporting Frameworks” blog post is part of a series on sustainability reporting.  Be sure to sign up for EnergyWatch’s newsletter to be notified of future postings in this series.

Sustainability reporting allows organizations to consider their impacts on sustainability issues, enabling them to examine the risks as well as capitalize on the opportunities they encounter.  A sustainability report is the disclosure of a company’s economic, environmental, and social effects as well as their progress towards them.  According to the International Finance Corporation, the information in a sustainability report would “influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”  Therefore, the transparency and accuracy of the sustainability reporting information is imperative.  As Gordan Gekko infamously mentions in the movie “Wall Street,” the most valuable commodity is information.  As the economy transitions from the manufacturing age to the information age, seeking and reporting information, especially around sustainability, becomes vital to business success.  Fortunately, there are many sustainability reporting frameworks to utilize such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, GRI, CDP, and the UN Global Impact.  Unfortunately, understanding the difference between each can become daunting, and reporting on all can be a near impossible task to manage without some expert help.  Read on for more information about each sustainability reporting framework, how they benefit your organization, and tips to simplify the sustainability reporting process.

What is ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an online benchmarking tool that helps track and measure your water and energy consumption.  Portfolio Manager allows you to track one building or an entire portfolio of buildings.  ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager provides a score from 1-100 which is supposed to represent a building’s percentile energy efficiency ranking with respect to similar buildings nationally, based on data they gather in the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).  In 2018, this dataset was updated using results from their 2012 survey, which lessened the scores of many due to mass energy performance improvement among commercial buildings.  The EPA responded with an update to the scoring model to account for changes in market trends that were not reflected in the new scores.  Today, many cities and states have begun requiring ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager participation (see the interactive map below to review ENERGY STAR policies).  Regardless if your local law requires it, voluntarily participating in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager has many benefits, including but not limited to national recognition for your buildings’ sustainability improvements.

What is GRI and the UN Global Impact?

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards have been a pioneer in sustainability reporting since 1997.  GRI aims to help businesses and governments all over the globe understand and communicate their impact on crucial sustainability issues like climate change, human rights, governance, and social well-being.  With a vision of “a thriving global community that lifts humanity and enhances the resources on which all life depends,” GRI is empowering sustainable decisions by focusing on transparency rather than performance, which is why GRI has a strategic partnership with the UN Global Compact. The 2030 global goals for sustainable development that the UN has set forth include no poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, renewable energy, good jobs and economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, and justice and partnerships for the goals. Most, if not all, of the UN’s agenda for sustainable development include issues that would greatly be benefitted by applying better sustainability reporting practices. GRI focuses on creating standards and guidance to advance sustainable development by providing the market with leadership by engaging with stakeholders on rising sustainability issues.  The GRI Standards are the first and most widely implemented global standards for sustainability reporting and are often integrated into annual reporting processes.

What about CDP?

CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, is a not-for-profit organization providing the global system for measuring, disclosing, and managing environmental performance.  CDP was founded in 2000 and measures and manages risk and opportunities on climate change, water security, and deforestation for thousands of companies, cities, states, and regions globally.  Each year, CDP takes information that is provided in its annual reporting process and gives a score to companies and cities based on their path to disclosure and towards environmental leadership.  Unlike ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, CDP has a larger focus on gathering qualitative data, requiring the details of environmental projects and specifics on risk management at the organization.  Currently, CDP holds the most comprehensive collection globally of corporate environmental data.  Many investors and stakeholders look for CDP reported data to ensure companies’ sustainability strategies are in line with theirs. 

The Benefits of Sustainability Reporting

Through sustainability reporting, an organization can improve brand integrity and reputation, mitigate risk, and drive performance and innovation, all while pleasing their stakeholders and investors.  As the world (and climate) is changing, the circumstances of sustainability are driving acute interest from customers, investors, and regulators, thus causing the role of organizations to change as well.  The underlying value of sustainability reporting is beyond the reports themselves, but in the world where organizations can use the data for action. Using an accurate, automated, and adaptable reporting procedure is essential to having a successful, streamlined sustainability reporting process, regardless of how many different frameworks you are required to report to.

Simplify Sustainability Reporting

Often, organizations’ sustainability reporting processes are intricate, highly manual (thus error-prone), and specialized to one specific framework.  Having an automated and adaptable reporting process will help ensure your organization is efficient and sustainable in its use of resources towards reporting versus other business endeavors.  Whatever your reason for evaluating sustainability performance and your strategy for implementation, strong results are based on strong data. Not sure where to start? EnergyWatch offers an energy and sustainability management platform, watchwire, that helps automate and streamline your sustainability efforts, while also enabling you to realize areas of improvement.  For more information, reach out to our sustainability account manager Alden Phinney for a free demo and consultation at alden@energywatch-inc.com.