Sustainability Reporting Framework 101

Mumbai, INDIA , September 8, 2017 Guest Contributor Vikram Shetty CEO 73bit Information Technology and Services.

A sustainability report is the key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts — whether positive or negative. It also helps topics that are relevant to the organization and prioritize those topics that are “material”. Another source of sustainability measures comes from companies’ reporting standards such as the triple bottom line accounting, as a growing body of firms and public institutions systematically reveal information about their environmental and social performance beyond the traditional financial statement.

Types of Reports

There are many different terms used to report namely Sustainability report, Non-financial report, Triple bottom line report, Corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, Assessment report, Benchmark Report, Transparent Report, Corporate Report, Responsibility Report and many more.

Over past several years, the various parties involved in developing the reporting frameworks have been working together to align their language and approach, and there are increasingly valuable synergies between the frameworks, which should make it easier for companies to evaluate and apply them while also reducing the amount of work and redundancy.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is most commonly known term. CSR is defined as “Enterprise should have a process in place to integrate social, environmental, ethical and human rights concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stake holder.”

History of Reporting

Events 1960 to 1980

The upshot was the US Clean Air Act in 1970 and Clean Water Act in 1972. US society in the 1960s and into the 1970s was concerned about social issues — women’s rights, racial equality and world peace — which became a focus of corporate reporting. In UK and USA, deregulation and economics were emphasised over other issues. Correspondingly, social reporting waned during the 1980s.

Events 1980 to 2000

Chemical corporations pooled together to develop ‘Responsible Care’ programs in an attempt to avert government regulation. Responsible Care was launched in 1985 by the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association (CCPA).

In 1991, Germany passed the Ordinance on the Avoidance of Packaging Waste under the German Waste Act, which held producers responsible for packaging waste. Denmark has required some corporations to disclose environmental consequences in annual reports since 1999.

In the mid-1990s, John Elkington, co-founder of the business consultancy SustainAbility, coined the concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ (Elkington 1998). The basic idea is that financial results do not provide a comprehensive summary of performance.

Events Post 2000

In 2000, GRI launched the first version of the Guidelines, representing the first global framework for comprehensive sustainability reporting. In 2002, about 70 per cent of the reports were published as Environmental Health and Safety reports; in 2005, about 70 per cent were published as Sustainability Reports.

The number of corporations providing CSR information continues to increase. In 2005, 64 per cent of the G250 corporations provided CSR reports, either standalone or as part of their annual reports. KPMG’s 2008 survey shows that nearly 80 per cent of the G250 provide CSR reports

Development of a framework for integrated reporting is led by the IIRC. The IIRC (2011) describes Integrated Reporting. An example of a company at the forefront of integrated reporting is Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company that is a world leader in diabetes care. Novo Nordisk has over 32,000 employees, working in 75 countries, and its full 2011 report is available at Novonordisk

New Generation Reporting

On September 25th 2015, countries (around 200 countries were in the UN when Sustainable Development Goals was adopted)adopted a set of goals to end povertyprotect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. It is called as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Reporting Life Cycle

Companies needs to first decide on which sustainability goals they want to report. We need to identify the Key Performance Indicators. If you are a team who offer Sustainability reporting or benchmarking services in specific industry then you would already have questionnaires or performance indicators.

A reporting cycle is usually One year. There can be variations however it is aligned with the financial reporting cycle. Since financial reporting cycle is normally a year in any country. The few stages in the Cycle from the reporter’s point of view are mentioned below:

  1. Preliminary questionnaire preparation.
  2. Data Collections from individual / multiple stakeholders.
  3. Review and correct the collected data.
  4. Analyse and format with communicating information.
  5. Create report in meaningful and common language.
  6. Publish the report to all stakeholders.

Pilot phase

Each stage has different activities and outcomes which needs different skills and timelines. One of the ways to experience the whole cycle is to start with Pilot Phase. This is a most common practice used by many to kick start the reporting cycle. It consists of a smaller questionnaire for few departments or companies depending on your size and kind of service you are providing for reporting. It becomes easy to create a small initial set of questions. This is followed by collecting the data from the respective team or person. Thus helping the team creating the report (reporters) to work with a small amount of data and with fewer member in a team. This will make it easier when your real questionnaire goes live- you can also test functionalities. It is also a good way to test your online tool/framework/software use to collect the data, analyse and report. It is not compulsory to have a online tool, It can be done by collecting data using word/excel documents via emails and doing all calculations manually. However it is recommended to have a tool for detail analysis of the data collected and to create comprehensive reports using the information in hand.

Recommended good practice for preparing questions and collecting data

  1. Create a plan on the timeline for collection data through surveys, analyzing data and for creating reports. Thus, giving the team enough time to make sure the data is correct.
  2. Try to create more simple questions and question structure. Thus making it easy for both the stakeholder to fill in and reporter to review and revert.
  3. If possible, have a kickoff online webinar to explain the questions and the structure with stakeholders. Let them know what is expected in the respective section.
  4. Keep the list of all concerned team to notify them once the reporting cycle starts and the instructions to fill in the survey.
  5. Stakeholders should only see the relevant questionnaire set which are specific concern to them.
  6. Periodically follow up with teams and doing a spot check to see if the data is filled correctly. Also, make sure that the team is not facing any challenges filling the survey.
  7. Appropriate alerts and notifications are in place once the stakeholder has completed the survey.
  8. Once the survey (data collection phase) is done the stakeholders should not be allowed to modified the data. Thus allowing reporters to work on final data submitted by the stakeholder.

There are many industry practices out there. Above are the few mentioned with respect to someone who is new to reporting cycle.

There are generally two kind of data that is collected while reporting namely Qualitative data and Quantitative data.

Qualitative data is information about qualities; information that can’t actually be measured. Some examples of qualitative data are “what are the principle towards sustainability?”, “what is the companies motto?” and so on.

Quantitative data is information about quantities; that is, information that can be measured and written down with numbers. Some examples of quantitative data are “total number of employees”, “Reporting period”, “Percentage of recycled input materials used”, “Return to work and retention rates of employees that took parental leave”, “ Total number and nature of confirmed incidents of corruption” and so on. The advantage of quantitative data is useful in representing them graphically and via charts. It can be also used in comparative analysis. A benchmarking report is slightly different in that it provides peer comparison, which a sustainability report does not. However, both kinds can be used to track and show year-on-year progress,

Few tricks for working with quantitative data

  1. Make use of sub totals and totals in your final reports or in summary
  2. Take Averages by categories/industries, it will help you represent same data for multiple audiences
  3. Display them in tabular formats for summary information to give an overall picture.
  4. Create derived data form the raw data. For example Ranks, Quintile, etc
  5. Make good use of charts and graphs to represent data.

Advantages of Reporting

There are direct benefits to your organisation in the measuring and reporting of environmental performance as it will benefit from lower energy and resource costs gain, a better understanding of exposure to the risks of climate change and demonstrate leadership, which will help strengthen your green credentials in the marketplace. You should find it helpful to use environmental KPIs to capture the link between environmental and financial performance. Investors, shareholders and other stakeholders are increasingly requesting better environmental disclosures in annual reports and accounts.

Expanding upon how these frameworks can help in developing corporate programs, these frameworks and initiatives can also help push for transparency regarding management strategies and measurable actions. Furthermore, they can help companies target areas that will have significant and meaningful impact that ultimately translate to value for our customers and stakeholders. And that is where the true value lay.

Apart from monetary benefits the reports can provide in terms of explaining the impact on the environment and society in general. You can align your purpose as a company or business towards sustainable future. Thus being a part of the new revolution towards making world more sustainable and happier to live.

Hope you continue to do the work that you are proud off!

I want to give special thanks to experts who helped us, name mentioned in alphabetical order (Click on their name below to visit their profile):

Simona Kramer : Junior researcher at Access to Nutrition Foundation

Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts : Benchmark and Knowledge Manager at Business in the Community

There are many web resources I have used to create this post. Thanks to all who are publishing information towards Sustainability. Few are mentioned below:

Sustainability reporting: past, present, and trends for the future  Insights  and The University of Melbourne.

NGOs Grow With Maximpact’s Training-of-Trainers

Capacity building and NGO’s external benefits (accountability to donors and local communities)

For many years now, NGO sector has been acting as an agent of change empowering and fostering local communities towards sustainable socio-economic development.

NGO programs that focus on peace building, democratic governance, human rights as well as fighting poverty and inequality are implemented around the world.

Yet, no matter how many successful projects have been created, in the final phase of implementation the last challenge remains – ensuring project sustainability.

To increase the chances that activities and policies fostered by NGOs will be integrated and utilized within targeted community groups upon project completion, it is helpful to have people within the project target group who know how to maintain new practices and policies once the NGO staff has completed their mission.

One of the most effective ways to carry out this goal is capacity building.

Capacity building has become one of the most important measures for ensuring project sustainability and is requested by the donor community.

Building the capacity of NGOs and projects to change negative perceptions, inefficient practices, and harmful behavior of governments, decision makers and policy makers is an emerging requirement usually implemented by reputable, successful NGOs.

Ensuring that NGOs have the capacity to undertake this important outreach means training NGO staffers, who will then be able to effectively communicate with community members and train them to carry out the core necessary tasks to ensure project sustainability and positive impact.

NGOs can build upon the success of their core programs by sharing their skills with others in the community, whether that community is a village, town, state, country or the entire world.

But the sharing of skills is a skill in itself. It requires training to sharpen effective communications strategies, including active listening, outreach that will be accepted by the community, assessment and follow up.

Maximpact provides need-based and sector-specific tailored training to strengthen the capacity of NGOs, projects and programs worldwide. Organizations can carry out training in any area they need, such as fundraising, or select Agriculture, WASH and Waste Management Training-of-Trainers.

The Internal Benefits of Capacity Building for an NGO

Capacity building is required to demonstrate an NGO’s accountability for and sustainability of project results to donors and local communities. It also is essential in growing the internal abilities of an NGO to perform its mission in the most efficient and effective way.

In order to adapt to the fast-changing environment of development and humanitarian assistance, many NGOs require new skills of their staff members. Internal communication and coordination of complex programs can pose challenges to staffers. Strengthening their ability to collaborate with partners becomes even more important.

Through its Training-of-Trainers programs designed for NGOs, Maximpact offers solutions to these and other common challenges faced by the NGO community.

NGOs benefit through such programs. By becoming trainers, NGO leaders can extend their services, enhancing the reputation of their organization and generating new revenue streams.

While building their own skills as trainers, NGO leaders are empowered to motivate community members to become trainers themselves, expanding the knowledge of the whole community.

ToT in WASH, Waste Management and Agriculture / TRIPLE BENEFIT

Maximpact offers customized training programs designed to serve NGOs working in the field of AgricultureWASH and Waste .

These programs offer triple benefits. They train participants in: technical, operational and preparation skills.

The Maximpact Training-of-Trainers program will graduate a competent and enthusiastic staff of trainers equipped with the skills and resources to transform local areas through sustainable agricultural methods tailored to local conditions and cultures.

The Maximpact Training-of-Trainers program for WASH consists of 11 main modules covering water pollution, water scarcity and climate change; and the practical possibilities for sustainable financing.

The Waste Management Training-of-Trainers program will introduce recent technology and most advanced techniques in waste management.

All these programs are expected to raise the skills of the NGO sector to create and deliver their own WASH, Agriculture and Waste capacity building programs.

Based on the specific needs of an NGO, the Maximpact Training-of-Trainers programs offer the flexibility to select one or more of the presented modules and/or request training in any additional sector-related topics.

Maximpact will adapt the program to the local context where trainings take place, as well as to the nature and knowledge level of training participants.

All Maximpact programs are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating the climate change and gender aspects of these ambitious goals.

To ensure sustainability, Maximpact has created a Post-Training Mentorship Program to further support the training participants in applying their training to their day-to-day work.

Participants of Maximpact capacity building training programs enhance the socio-environmental impact and sustainability of their NGO projects. Their communities experience upward economic mobility as the graduates, in turn, teach local enterprises the skills they need to succeed.

Implementation modalities and service conditions

Maximpact trainers can provide either virtual or in-house training, or both.

The training service fee will depend on:

  • the number of topics or modules selected
  • the mode of training delivery – in-house or virtual
  • the number of days during which the training will take place
  • the choice of national or international expert to conduct the training

To get started, the NGO fills in the pre-training assessment form, click for link: Maximpact Training Form

Then, Maximpact finds the right expert and submits a service proposal to that expert for review and approval.

To receive a quote for your organizations training, please contact


Sustainable Goals and Social Impact: Do You Have What you need to succeed?


By Maximpact

Sustainable Goals and Social Impact: 

Do You Have What you need to succeed?

At the nexus of change is a work space for projects, businesses, ideas and endless opportunities.  A global marketplace of qualified consultants, experts and services. today announced the launch of their consulting and advisory services to support the development of projects, businesses and funds in the circular, impact and sustainability sectors. Aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Maximpact offers over 185 services to 20 different sectors including agriculture, assessment, community, environment, forestry, fisheries, water, waste management, renewable energy, women empowerment and more…

Existing customers have welcomed the diversity of the rich suite of services and it’s ease of use saving them both time and money. 

Customers at Maximpact can choose from both packaged or tailored support development and support services to assist their project or business at any stage of development. With access to pre-selected resources, an extensive network, knowledge and skills from around the world customers are well equipped in a rapidly changing world.

With hundreds of pre-qualified experts, project mangers and thousands of NGOs with experience in many thousands of projects worldwide, sourcing hard-to-find consultants, services and partners has never been easier than through Maximpact’s one-stop-shop.

By streamlining and simplifying the process of project and business development Maximpact has helped its clients save up to 65% in time and money, that is a welcome change to any one’s bottom line.

Difficult searches for good resources is now a thing of the past as users benefit from a unique Project Search Map allowing them to find experts quickly based upon project, geography, sector, language and expertize. Maximpact has once again made  complex tasks easy.

After finding the right expert, clients can book a call with the expert of their choice, receive a phone recording of their call and if they wish can proceed to hire the expert for their project online.

Services Offered

The new support and development services provided by Maximpact are designed for all projects, businesses and funds.

Project Services

Project services deliver resources and solutions to support, develop and improve projects at any stage of their development and cycle. Maximpact will tailor consulting and project services to find the right solution for the most complex challenges. Services cover different stages of project cycles such as: 

  • Consultation
  • Project initiation and planning
  • Assessment
  • Implementation
  • Capacity building
  • Visibility, communication and networking

Business Services

Tailored advisory services addresses the challenges businesses face in a rapidly changing marketplace. Maximpact offers a wide range of business services and solutions to suit the unique needs of each client. Assisting to plan, solve problems, mitigate risk, fund and source market opportunities through Maximpact’s global network.

Services cover different stages of business cycles such as: 

  • Consultation
  • Corporate Finance
  • Assessment
  • Strategy
  • Capacity Building
  • Operations and Supply chain

Investment Ready Services include packaged business services to suit the budget of all businesses.

Services cover different stages of business cycles such as:

  • Business plans and financials
  • Business valuations
  • Due diligence

Fund Services

Unique investment fund services have been designed to streamline processes and help improve the funds’ efficiency and competitiveness. By offering expert advice in 20 sectors we are able to deliver tailored services to the needs of each fund.

Services offered to funds such as:

  • Sector specific advice and market study
  • Investment sourcing 
  • Investment filtering 
  • Financial due diligence / auditing 
  • Investment analysis and reports
  • Acceleration of market-ready investments

Leveraging our unique global network and services Maximpact  delivers expertise, improved efficiency, real-time market knowledge and decision-making capabilities.

Tom_Holland_imageTom Holland, Founder and CEO of comments:

Since Maximpact’s inception years ago we are dedicated and continue to focus on building our vision. Bringing together those working in silos of activity and to group together like-minded communities wishing to create good impact and a more sustainable future for us all. In doing so our community of over 90,000 includes hundreds of qualified experts, consultants and services in over 173 countries. Our expert community is expected to grow to 1,000 by year end.  New project and business activity continues to increase and will grow further as we welcome the thousands of project managers and NGOs who will become active in our network.

Visit us and find our out more about

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Best Sustainable Development Moves Need Decision Analysis


By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, January 29, 2016 ( News) – “It’s about the toughest job any human being could be given,” says David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The London-born UN veteran has the job of mobilizing global efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda, adopted unanimously by 193 Heads of State at UN Headquarters in New York in September.

The goals are ambitious: zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and creating the partnerships to achieve them.

“The 17 goals represent an indivisible tapestry of thinking and action that applies in every community, everywhere in the world,” said Nabarro. “They are universal. But they’re also indivisible and that means that we really do not believe that any one goal should be separated out from the others.”

“And as you study them,” he said, “you realize that although they’re presented as individual goals, they actually represent a total and completely intertwined lattice of action that is relevant for every human being everywhere.”

These goals “plot out an annual investment pipeline measured in the trillions to end poverty and also marry increased prosperity with social inclusion and environmental regeneration,” says UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner.

Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years – 169 targets in total.

Deciding how to actually achieve each goal and how to measure the potential effectiveness of funding and implementation proposals appears to be a steep mountain to climb.

For measuring progress toward its goals, UN agencies have historically relied on a target-setting process.

But now, to help Nabarro help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, scientists are calling on the UN and the private sector to dispense with the target-setting approach and adopt a new method – decision analysis.


Dr. Keith Shepherd is a specialist in decision analysis and soil science. (Photo courtesy World Agroforestry Centre)

Dr. Keith Shepherd and the Land Health Decisions team at the World Agroforestry Centre proposed the use of decision analysis concepts and tools in a September 2015 article in the journal “Nature.”

Shepherd says, “The target setting approach is widely seen as ineffective or counter-productive,” says Shepherd, a soil scientist, who also leads the Information Systems Strategic Research in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

This research focuses on decision engagement and analytics using holistic cost-benefit analysis of stakeholder intervention decisions with emphasis on quantifying uncertainty and risks to focus on information needs that have high economic value.

Targeting emphasizes meeting a target rather than learning how to improve performance and solve a problem, Shepherd explains, adding that target setting can incentivize mis-reporting information in order to meet the target.

“And last but not least,” maintains Shepherd, “it’s an incredibly expensive endeavor to monitor and collect data.”

Shepherd says decision analysis will help avoid spending precious funds on another round of target setting and monitoring.

An analysis of more than 80 models from a variety of decisions and industries reveals that “managers tend to choose to measure variables that are unlikely to improve decisions while ignoring more useful ones,” Shepherd says.

“In a way it’s like putting up a whole new learning system rather then setting up a group of targets,” says Shepherd. “Using decision analysis is about supporting people to make better decisions and better choices. We need to work on gathering the right information needed to improve decision making on the ground. We have the tools to do that now.”

In the “Nature” article, Shepherd and his colleagues propose replacing targets with measures of return on investment.

With limited development dollars, decision makers should understand how to maximize the impact of investments, they write. “We should be asking and answering questions such as, ‘were the environmental benefits and reduction of poverty enough to justify the allocation of limited funds?'”

Decision makers should be using economic models that project long-term costs, benefits and risks of intervention options and help choose the best combination of interventions for achieving the desired set of development goals.

Decision analysis uses “value-of-information” analyses that determine how much decision-makers should be willing to pay for additional knowledge on a certain variable before making a decision. Areas that have high information value should be measured.

“The whole process is a learning system.” explains Shepherd. “We project impacts based on current understanding, measure where it will help improve our choices, monitor where things are most likely to go wrong, and continually update our projections and choices based on what we actually observe.”

Shepherd and team advise that the UN, donors and private sector should fund a decision analysis task force. The task force will help clarify key decisions about development interventions, create methods for analyzing choices and tradeoffs, and design a capacity development program in decision analysis.

“I think this will need steering, piloting and proof of application because it is an entirely different approach to what many know in development,” says Shepherd. “It will take quite a bit of work to enact change, however we have seen this transition happen in other fields.”

Sectors that have been using decision analysis for decades include mining, oil, insurance, and cybersecurity, he said.

Nabarro will receive support in his tough task from a select group of people who have much experience in analyzing decisions.

A queen, a crown princess, a president, a prime minister, a Chinese e-commerce pioneer, and a player often ranked as the world’s best footballer are among eminent Advocates appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Co-chairs of the SDG Advocates group are Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The SDG Advocates are:

  • Queen Mathilde of Belgium
  • Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
  • Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Chinese Alibaba Group of Internet-based businesses
  • Leo Messi, the world renowned Argentine-born footballer
  • Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, co-founder of the Qatar Foundation
  • Richard Curtis, screenwriter, producer and film director
  • Dho Young-Shim, chair of the UN World Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism Foundation
  • Leymah Gbowee, director of the Gbowee Peace
  • Graça Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development
  • Alaa Murabit; founder of The Voice of Libyan Women
  • Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever
  • Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Colombia University
  • Shakira Mebarak, founder of the Pies Descalzos Foundation
  • Forest Whitaker, actor and founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative
  • Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)

These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.