city
CDP, Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

Cities Need to Engage in Sustainability Reporting

city
Photo and Design by Michael White

Cities are getting a lot of attention for taking action on climate change. This action is born out of necessity. Cities have over 50 percent of the planet’s population. It is not surprising that they create 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2050, cities are estimated to have 70 percent of the planet’s population. With this expectation, cities are compelled to respond to increases in waste, effluents, water demand, traffic congestion, and air pollution, just to name a few challenges. One of the ways they are responding is by sharing lessons learned with other cities. Many are joining networks such as C40, ICLEI, and ANSI Network on Smart and Sustainable Cities.

Cities are taking the current and coming challenges seriously. Many cities are preparing sustainability plans, which state goals and targets for carbon emissions, economic initiatives, and waste management. Over time, the plans are assessed using periodic progress reports comparing actual results to targets. In most instances, cities use whatever reporting format they want. These reports are great for presenting what is working and what is not. But is a non-standardized reporting approach optimal for better management, transparency, and communication?

There are several sustainability reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative Standards, ISO 37120 Sustainable Development of Communities – Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life, and CDP Cities, that cities can use to help them manage their sustainability goals and initiatives. Cities do not need to reinvent the wheel!

In a series of future posts, I will talk about these frameworks and why cities should use them.

Stay tuned!!

 

 

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1-17
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), GRI Certified Training, ISOS Group, SDGs, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals

GRI Standards and Sustainable Development Goals Alignment Trainings

GRI Logo, 2015

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1-17
SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

If you are using the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, you may want to include Sustainable Development Goals in your reporting. How can you align the two frameworks? There are new trainings being offered by ISOS Group to help you do that.

Sustainable Development Goals Module: This workshop is designed to support the alignment between GRI Guidelines and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since many organizations have yet to set targets for minimizing impacts to the international agreements on greenhouse gasses and beyond, using the SDGs can be a great way to cast a net toward larger objectives and develop actionable strategies for implementation. Instructors will work to demonstrate actionable steps that can be taken to institute specific SDGs. Upon course completion, participants will receive a certificate directly from GRI.

Hope to see you at a training soon!

 

 

Chicago, Elevated Train.
Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Integrated Reporting, Risk Management, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

Cities and Sustainability Reporting Revisited

24012774975_78cf3c0727_z-2Chicago ‘L’

Photo by Michael White

I advocate often for cities to prepare sustainability reports. In a previous blog, “GRI Reporting for Cities,”  I made the case for cities to use the GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines so cities can manage their progress in achieving environmental, economic, and social goals.

So is there more can I say on this subject? You bet!

The focus on cities as a vehicle to sustainable development keeps gaining traction. City governments face daunting economic, environmental, and social challenges. SustainAbility has published reports that make the case for focusing on cities as a critical approach for improving the Earth’s sustainability. Cities may well be the key to addressing the planet’s many challenges, but they cannot solve them alone. In its report Citystates II The Case for Corporate Leadership in Urban Sustainability, SustainAbility encourages public private sector partnerships. It is a compelling argument.

There is an urgent need, and a huge opportunity, for local and international stakeholders to prioritize the sustainability requirements of cities, and with them, broader sustainable development. Chief among these stakeholders is business, which has both the opportunity and responsibility to take a leadership role (and the chance to reap substantial benefits in the process), and without which cities will be unable to innovate and scale their efforts at nearly the required pace. Though there are many leading examples of cities and companies working together to accelerate progress on urban sustainability, this agenda is only beginning to enter mainstream business thinking, and overall city-business collaboration remains underdeveloped in aggregate and challenging in practice.

The last comment strikes me as quite interesting, “…this agenda is only beginning to enter mainstream business thinking, and overall city-business collaboration remains underdeveloped in aggregate and challenging in practice.”

What can be done to bring this along?

Cities need to publish sustainability reports. By doing so they would be better able to communicate their sustainability strategy, risks, and opportunities. Cities need to be transparent so businesses can decide whether to engage in a private public partnership or to relocate to the city.

Businesses analyze a variety of information to make decisions. A city sustainability report would be an important piece of the analysis. If a business is interested in building a new plant in a city, it may have concerns about the environmental health of the city.  A sustainability report would provide  information about a city’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, water quality, effluents, and transportation. The environmental health of a city would have impacts on its workers or its production processes. For example, water availability and quality may be essential to a company’s production processes or delivery of services. In the hospitality industry, water for cleaning, bathing, and cooking is a key part of providing services. City water sources and quality are important to the hospitality industry. Companies may think twice about building a hotel that would require their own large capital investments to insure sufficient water quantity and quality.

In addition, a sustainability report would provide information about the economic health of a city. Information about economic resources generated and disbursed by a city can indicate major economic issues facing a city. For example, a trend of decreasing tax revenues may affect how a city seeks to fund its services. Other sources of revenues such as public private partnerships may be on the rise. The disclosure of successful partnerships may encourage more. Without a sustainability report that discloses relevant economic metrics, a city may miss opportunities.

Cities can also help themselves be more efficient and effective by reporting. For example, reporting energy, water, and fuel usage enables a city to provide benchmarks. Targets can then be established to reduce future usage and costs. Reporting on the quality of services delivered through customer satisfaction feedback can provide information about a city’s effectiveness. Customer satisfaction would be a metric under products and services in the social category of a sustainability report. Cities can identify areas that need improvement. A well-run city can communicate its progress and effectiveness by disclosing relevant metrics in a sustainability report.

How can we convince cities how important sustainability report is to their future? Let me know what you think.

Accountants, Accounting Education, AICPA, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), GRI Certified Training, Integrated Reporting, ISOS Group, Sustainability, Sustainability education, Sustainability Reporting

Will Accountants Save the World?

 

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NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

As an accountant, I was thrilled to read that Peter Bakker, President of World Business Council for Sustainable Development , said, “Accountants would save the world.” This should make any accountant smile. The realist in me knows that it will take a big “village” to save the world, but accountants can play an important role.

At an experts panel discussion in Amsterdam, Marjolein Baghuis stated, “… the conclusion was that accountants can certainly play a role in making companies more sustainable, but the profession is not quite ready to deliver on this promise without further education.” I agree!

Accountants have a long history of providing information to decision makers. They have been in the business of providing information since the 15th century. Really! If you want to read a great book, I recommend The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations by Jacob Soll.  Accountants are big players in the fortunes of companies and nations. With their experience in providing information for decision-making, accountants can provide important sustainability information to companies, governments, and the public.

Sustainability reporting is unfortunately not currently recognized as an important topic in accounting education in the United States. In a curriculum crowded with courses in tax, auditing, financial accounting, and management accounting, training in sustainability reporting is viewed as nice but not necessary.

Why is this?

There are several reasons.

  1. It is not covered on the major certification exams such as the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) exam and the Certified Management Accountant exam.
  2. There is no demand for sustainability reporting skills in accounting public practice because there is no legal requirement to do it in the United States.
  3. Inside companies, accountants are not usually tasked with sustainability accounting and reporting.
  4. Accountants in small to medium sized public practices do not traditionally offer sustainability services.
  5. Most small to medium sized accounting firms do not know how to make the business case for sustainability reporting for their own firm or for their clients.

Over the years there have been attempts to include sustainability reporting as part of accountants’ education but with little progress. Other traditional accounting topics take precedence. Without the demand, change will be slow.

Once in practice, however, accountants who desire to learn about sustainability reporting can look to several professional organizations. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants promotes the benefits of sustainability services and provides information to its members. The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) offers information and resources. IFAC is actively engaged with  the Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability Project, the International Integrated Reporting Council, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Accountants can attend GRI certified sustainability reporting training courses offered by GRI Training Partners such as the ISOS Group.

How will demand for sustainability reporting be created? Here are some possibilities.

Mandatory reporting – Nothings creates a demand for services like a legal requirement. Examples abound – auditing, tax, Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance.

Demand by financial institutions – As part of the evaluation of companies, lending institutions could require a sustainability report. This report would enable banks to do an expanded risk assessment. This would include a company’s environmental and social risks, which are directly tied to their economic risks.

Demand by local governments – Local governments might consider requiring sustainability reports from companies within the city limits. This would be beneficial to cities in assessing a company’s economic, environmental, and social risks. By complying, organizations would be demonstrating their good citizenship and assessing their own risks.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

GRI G4 Exam
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

GRI G4 EXAM – Worth the time and effort

GRI G4 Exam
GRI G4 Exam

I have been away for a few weeks enjoying the holiday break and studying for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 Exam. I passed!


For the past two years I have been a trainer in the GRI Certified Training Program with the ISOS Group. You would expect that trainers know the guidelines well!

Is taking the exam worthwhile for others in the sustainability reporting field? Yes! Passing the exam demonstrates your knowledge of the GRI G4 Guidelines. Your employer and clients will have external validation that you are knowledgeable.

In order to be eligible to take the exam, you must complete the GRI G4 Certified Training Course. During this course, you spend two days learning about the guidelines and reporting process. After completing the requirements of the course, you will receive a certificate of attendance.

How much did you retain? When you pass the exam, you demonstrate that you met the GRI’s standard of knowledge. If your employer has paid for you to take the course, why not take the exam to show that their money was well spent. You did more than just attend.

How will others know that you passed the exam? You can put it on your resume. Even better and more public, your name will be on the GRI website on the successful candidates page.

The exam is not free so I recommend that you study. I did, and it was worth my time.

If you decide to take the exam, good luck!