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Shout it out loud F

or the second consecutive year, IMS Consulting has undertaken a benchmarking

study on the ways in which construction and development companies are communicating their progress towards sustainability. The overall aim of the study was to regularly benchmark the standard of sustainability reporting and the way in which companies communicated what they are doing. The report’s author, Dr Richard Westaway, noted the 2011 results, as a whole, painted a mixed picture. All 25 of the companies included in the study have web pages dedicated to sustainability, CSR or an equivalent. Most (92%) have clearly stated sustainability aims, and 88% reported on progress made in the previous year. However, he noted, some aspects of established good practice in corporate sustainability are clearly being neglected. For example, only 13% of the companies’ sustainability reports have undergone assurance by third parties. Stakeholder engagement at a strategic level appears not to be regarded by the majority as fewer than half of the 25 companies provided evidence that external stakeholders had infl uenced their sustainability strategy. The fi ndings were based on robust research and consultation.

The methodology IMS Consulting developed and applied in order to

The IMS Consulting study can be downloaded at http://tinyurl. com/7agjkbp *Ceres (2009) Roadmap for Sustainability ( ceresroadmap) and Ceres (2006) Corporate Governance and Climate Change report ( Document.Doc?id=90)

evaluate each company’s sustainability communications was based on a framework previously established and used by Ceres*. Their sustainability communications were evaluated against a bespoke ‘sustainability-reporting

“Only 13% of sustainability reports had undergone assurance by third parties”

scorecard’: a set of criteria that IMS Consulting believes represents good practice in terms of how sustainability policies, activities, actions and progress are communicated. The criteria covered three main themes:

(1) Governance: including disclosure about how sustainability processes are managed and assessment of the importance given to sustainability when communicating corporate performance, business strategy and risk assessments. (2) Reporting framework: including communication of the processes by which sustainability reports and other communications are produced and disseminated, their accessibility, format, scope and content, and evidence that third party guidelines, standards or certifi cation have been used. (3) Disclosure of information: |MARCH 2012

Many of us recognise the importance of business communications and know how important it is to talk regularly to customers and clients, suppliers, employees and the media. Larger companies, especially listed ones, are well versed in reporting their fi nancial position. Few, however, communicate their sustainability policies, practices and reporting strategy properly. But that attitude now appears to be changing.

Gordon Miller is the Co-founder and Sustainability & Communications Director of business alliance Sustain Worldwide (www.sustainworldwide. com). He is a licensed BREEAM International Assessor and consults to housebuilders and developers on sustainability and environmental management systems. Gordon writes for national newspapers including the Financial Times and

The Guardian.

relating to a company’s operations, supply chain, products and services and employees, which would typically be expected to include aims and objectives, past performance, future targets, recent progress and evidence of initiatives. Westaway noted that while the

leading performers have improved compared to 2010, the poorest performers have not improved at the same rate. The widening gap between those who do and do not communicate sustainability effectively is evidenced by the leading two performers having what are described as well-established sustainability strategies in place – with long-term objectives and shorter- term targets.

IMS Consulting believes that sustainability reporting, in particular, has forced organisations to re-evaluate how they evaluate and communicate performance. It necessitates

performance to encompass a wide range of non-fi nancial issues including social and environmental factors.

Coming at a time when sustainability is rising rapidly up the agenda of the boardrooms of many property industry companies, IMS Consulting believes this benchmarking study is a timely and important piece of research. The results give valuable insight for companies and

their stakeholders alike … in that: · They are a valuable way of engaging in constructive dialogue about why and how progress towards sustainability should be communicated by construction companies. · They can help drive competition, as the performance bands make it clear which companies are leading the way and which ones are lagging behind. · They can initiate improvements in sustainability communications across the sector as a whole. The drivers for such engagement

vary from sector to sector and company to company. Talk to environmentalists, and they’ll say it’s about meeting society’s needs without compromising future generations’ capacity to do so, too. Ask economists, and they’ll say it’s about keeping infl ation low and growth steady. Speak with business executives, and they’ll say it’s a long-term strategy to gain a competitive advantage in innovation, effi ciency, reputation, and to mitigate against risk. What we at Sustain Worldwide are embracing is embedding all of these elements – and having the ability to communicate them effectively – in one’s enterprise that is increasingly setting the global business leaders apart from the others and also-rans.

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