ComprehensivenessMethodology to analyse the comprehensiveness of sustainability reports
The comprehensiveness of Swiss sustainability reports was determined using the Reporting Matters methodology of WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), which was slightly adapted to the Swiss context. The analysis was carried out by engageability after a training session at WBCSD.
General concepts that guide the sustainability reporting: completeness, materiality, stake-holder engagement, external environment, balance, conciseness.
Information that the reporting material should contain: sustainability governance, strategy, management approach, perfor-mance, strategic partnerships, targets and commitments, evidence of activities.
Elements that facilitate the readers’ access to and digestion of the reporting material: accessibility, story and messaging, navigation and flow.
Completeness: The criterion examines whether the reporting material describes the scope of the report, the company’s boundaries and its value chain in sufficient detail.
Materiality: The criterion focuses on the process of preparation of the materiality analysis. On the one hand, it evaluates how the key issues have been identified (e.g. in cooperation with stakeholders) and on the other hand, how the results have been approved (e.g. validated by the Board of Directors or the Executive Board) and disclosed (e. g. using a graph/matrix). Finally, it is examined whether the reporting reflects the prioritization of the aspects identified as material.
Stakeholder engagement: The criterion “stakeholder engagement” analyses whether stakeholders have been identified and whether the company discloses their concerns and how it responds to them. N.b. The latter will be examined in more detail by means of the Credibility-Analysis (see Chapter II).
Business environment: The criterion checks whether external trends (industry-specific trends, megatrends, legislation) are mentioned in the reporting material and whether the company responds to them.
Balance: This criterion analyzes whether the company is self-critical and responds to possible challenges, performance deficits, third party concerns or negative/critical cases.
N.b. The Credibility-Analysis (see Chapter II) further evaluates the description of the causes and consequences of negative/critical cases. The third subanalysis (III. Relevance of sustainability priorities) examines whether negative cases that were reported in the media are addressed in the reporting material.
Conciseness: The criterion examines the compactness of the reporting material, its comprehensibility and whether the focus is on the issues identified as material by the company.
Please note: While the Reporting Matters methodology also analyses the principle ‘reliability’, the Swiss expert group decided in 2015 to analyze this principle for benchmark purposes only (no scoring), to ensure that smaller companies who might not be able to afford external assurance have no disadvantage. See results on assurance in ‘reporting trends’.
Sustainability governance: The criterion analyzes various elements of the sustainability governance of the company in question (e.g. disclosure of the organizational structure with regard to sustainability, of the responsibilities with regard to sustainability or of the structure of incentivizing systems regarding sustainability for the top management).
Strategy: The criterion reviews the vision of and strategic approach to sustainability, in particular also, whether sustainability is integrated into the corporate strategy.
Management approach: The criterion analyzes the reporting on management systems (e.g. guidelines and certificates) and their implementation in the operational activities of the company.
Targets and commitments: The criterion evaluates the company’s targets and commitments.
The SMART concept is central to both this criterion and the impact analysis of the Credibility-Analysis.
– The goal lies in the past and has been achieved.
– Short-term (< 2 years)
– Medium-term (2-5 years)
– Long-term (> 5 years)
Evidence of activities: The criterion analyzes whether there is evidence provided to show how the company has addressed material issues during the reporting period. Evidence of this can be, for example, information on programs, initiatives or case studies.
Strategic partnerships and collaborations: The criterion examines the reporting on partnerships and collaborations that are relevant for sustainability.
Performance: The criterion analyzes the depth of information on the company’s performance regarding its material topics (especially the existence of key performance indicators).
Accessibility of sustainability information: This criterion evaluates the availability of sustainability content (e.g. how easy it is to find it on the homepage) and whether it is tailored to different target groups.)
Story and messaging: This criterion evaluates how the sustainability information is delivered (i.e. the extent to which the company appears committed and motivated to achieve its goal, or whether there is a slogan or an overarching message that conveys commitment or enthusiasm).
Flow and navigation: This criterion evaluates the presentation of sustainability information (i.e. Navigation through the report, links and cross references within the report as well as to additional information sources).
Please note: In 2015, the Swiss expert group decided that ‘compelling design’, which is analysed within the Reporting Matters methodology, should not be analysed in Switzerland; thus, avoiding the certain risk of subjective design preferences among analysts.