Sustainability Reporting Made Easy!
Wednesday, 14th August 2002 at 1:08 pm
A new web-based tool to report on environmental and social performance by Australia’s top 300 listed companies is about to make sustainability reporting easy.
The architect of the new free service is the Sustainable Investment Research Institute (SIRIS), a dedicated social and environmental investment research group.
The database development was made possible by a $55-thousand Federal Government grant through Environment Australia. The initiative, known as Sustainability Reporter, is intended to allow Australian companies to report conveniently and easily on sustainability and delivers comparable information for users.
Sustainability Reporter is the first of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. Information provided by companies will be stored in a database and will be publicly accessible via the Internet. The initiative is free to both companies and users of the data. SIRIS Principal, Terence Jeyaretnam said Sustainability Reporter would help reduce the increasing workload being experienced by many companies listed on the ASX in meeting requests for information on sustainability performance and social responsibility initiatives.
Jeyaretnam says companies face increasing pressure by stakeholders – individual and institutional investors, financial analysts, non-government organisations, regulators, unions, employees and media – to disclose their social and environmental performance. Whilst there is wide interest in corporate accountability, the variety and volume of requests associated with this type of reporting is creating confusion and difficult demands on time and resources within companies.
He says that what everyone needs – the companies, investors and others seeking information – is a consistent, accessible and easy way to deliver and read this material.
With Sustainability Reporter companies enter information online themselves and update the information as required. Existing reports and other information can be directly linked to the site.
Sustainability reporting has emerged as a key issue for many companies due to:
? increasing pressure by stakeholders to disclose social and environmental performance
? increasing investor interest following the passage of the Financial Services Reform Act 2001, which requires investors to disclose the extent to which they consider labour standards, environmental, social and ethical issues as part of their investment process.
Work on Sustainability Reporter began in 2001 to provide a central database and mechanism for companies to disclose their social and environmental performance. Many of Australia’s largest listed companies and stakeholders, such as domestic and international financial institutions, Government and non-government agencies, were consulted in preparing Sustainability Reporter. An advisory committee has also been established.
Sustainability Reporter is not seen as a ‘cure all’ for data requests, but is expected to alleviate some of the burden of requests for social and environmental disclosure. A series of national workshops – to explain Sustainability Reporter, how to use it and issues such as verification and security – will commence in August. Please call 03 9691 4000 for details.
Post Script: The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced that it will issue a Discussion paper later this year on possible guidelines for Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Disclosure. ASIC says any guidelines would aim to help ensure that consumers can choose a product that most closely matches their SRI investment objectives as well as give industry greater certainty about meeting disclosure requirements.
The recent reforms introduced by the Financial Services Reform Act included a requirement for investment products to disclose in their Product Disclosure Statements, the extent to which they take labour standards, and environmental, social and ethical considerations into account.