Bushfire Appeals

Sustainability Reporting - Challenges and Benefits

Wednesday, 6th February 2013 at 12:09 pm
Staff Reporter
Producing a sustainability report is becoming an accepted part of corporate accountability. Pro Bono Australia journalist Damien Currie spoke to Telstra to find out what challenges and benefits sustainability reporting can bring to a large Australian organisation.

Wednesday, 6th February 2013
at 12:09 pm
Staff Reporter



Sustainability Reporting - Challenges and Benefits
Wednesday, 6th February 2013 at 12:09 pm

Producing a sustainability report is becoming an accepted part of corporate accountability. Pro Bono Australia journalist Damien Currie spoke to Telstra to find out what challenges and benefits sustainability reporting can bring to a large Australian organisation.

Nancie-Lee Robinson, is Telstra’s General Manager – Governance, Integration & Reporting and Chief Sustainability Office and she has been working on the telco’s sustainability reports for the last five years. She says her focus is on the value of ‘reporting’ rather than the report itself as an end product.

Questions such as who uses the information and how do they use it are are integral. What do people want to know about? How can reporting support an organisational culture of transparency and accountability, and enhance engagement with our stakeholders?

”The report itself is just the tip of the iceberg,” she says.

Reporting Challenges
According to Robinson the key challenges of sustainability reporting is deciding who is the audience.

“Reports are supposed to describe a company’s approach and performance on those issues of social, environmental and governance significance to your stakeholders. For a large company like Telstra, with a presence across the country, around 35,000 employees and 1.4 million shareholders, and millions of customers, pretty much everyone in Australia is a stakeholder,” she says.

“While there is merit in frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and assurance standards, the end result of compliance with these can be very long and inaccessible reports. Lack of compliance with so called ‘best practice’ standards though can result in claims of ‘green washing’ or ‘spin’.

“It is a difficult line to walk. And compiling a report requires a huge organisational commitment and effort, so you want to make sure there is value in the process.”

The Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) helps organisations with responsible business strategies and stakeholder relationships and provide training in sustainability reporting in Australia and New Zealand.

Their Managing Director, Dr Leeora Black says one of the major challenges of compiling a report is appealing to stakeholders with diverse interests and uses for the report

“Developing the understanding within an organisation that the report needs to be a balanced and comprehensive account of sustainability impacts and performance, not a promotional document for the company’s good deeds,” she says.

“Obtaining reliable performance data from different parts of the organisation – for early reports the data collection systems are often immature and fragmented

“Really using the reporting process to interrogate performance and drive improvements not just a historical record.”

Reporting Benefits
But sustainability reports aren’t all about challenges and obstacles. They do come with a range of benefits.

“Reporting helps us to keep track of our sustainability performance and helps to keep us accountable,” Telstra’s Nancie-Lee Robinson says.

“The processes behind it reveal new and emerging social and environmental issues, how other companies are addressing key sustainability challenges and what our stakeholders are interested in. It can really highlight any gaps in our approach. We find that the demand for sustainability information is increasing.

“We use the information we gather in stakeholder communications such as newsletters, meetings and presentations, in customer bids, in responses to media enquiries, and to inform our employees.”

According to Leeora Black, there are two main benefits for a company producing a sustainability report.

“There’s an opportunity to drive performance improvements and strengthen the contribution of sustainability to core business and improve social ,environmental and economic impacts of the organisation,” she says.

“There is also a reputational benefit from reporting, especially the first reports, but this depends on the balance and honesty of the reporting.”

The Future of Sustainability Reporting
When asked about the future of sustainability reporting, Robinson flags the use of technology as playing a key part.

“With the movement to integrated reporting, creative use of online reporting and communication, Smartphones and tablet technologies, and more sophisticated company sustainability strategies, I think the big standalone, compliance driven sustainability report will be a thing of the past,” she says.

“For me the challenge is to think about how we can use the reporting information we gather more flexibly, in order to meet the specific interests of our different stakeholder groups.”

Dr Black lists a number of trends destined for the future of CSR reporting:

1. Increasingly creative and diverse methods of communication, using different channels and media to appeal to different stakeholders needs
2. Extending reporting through the value chain – reporters increasingly needing to understand the sustainability impacts of their value chain from cradle to grave, requiring more integration of data and data sharing with key suppliers and customers
3. The G4 guidelines and development of integrated reporting will drive further changes towards reporting on how the business model creates sustainable value, which takes things further than reporting on impacts.
4. Improved measurement of impacts will be required as part of these trends
5. Sustainability reporting will become increasingly mainstream
6. The question of mandatory reporting as previously been canvassed by government (2006) and will be likely to come up again in future given global progress in the matter. 

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Get more stories like this


Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Why are so many older Australian women becoming homeless?

Luke Michael

Sunday, 27th January 2019 at 9:00 am

One Woman’s Journey of Philanthropy

Wendy Williams

Tuesday, 27th March 2018 at 8:30 am

Business Supports Mandatory Sustainability Reporting – CSR Survey

Lina Caneva

Thursday, 4th May 2017 at 10:15 am


NDIS not yet in tune with the needs of participants

Luke Michael

Monday, 20th January 2020 at 4:46 pm

What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at 4:28 pm

Centralised disaster fund dismissed by charities sector

Maggie Coggan

Friday, 24th January 2020 at 5:32 pm

New fund paves the way for impact investment in the charity sector

Luke Michael

Friday, 17th January 2020 at 4:34 pm

Bushfire Appeals
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!