Updates and Insights from the CSR Asia Forum on Sustainability Disclosure 2011

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Insights

The CSR Asia Forum on Sustainability Disclosure 2011 was held in Singapore on 23 March, and organised by CSR Asia to update delegates on sustainability reporting, disclosure and communications, both locally and globally.

Here are some updates and insights from the Forum:

Singapore Companies Lagging Behind on Sustainability Reporting

According to CSR Asia, Singapore companies are lagging behind on sustainability reporting and could risk losing out this potential competitive edge to other Asian companies. Singapore is placed fourth out of five ASEAN countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines) in terms of the number of sustainability reports produced by the country’s companies, and has only 21 companies producing 59 reports in the past eight years.

Speaking at the Forum welcome address, CSR Asia’s Country Director (Singapore), Jenny Costelloe, explained that:

Companies in Singapore are facing a critical opportunity: to stay ahead of the curve and respond to stakeholder expectation to disclose sustainability data about their operations, or to lose a competitive edge over companies which report on such issues.

These days many stakeholders, from investors to customers and suppliers, use sustainability data to get a gauge on a company’s long term prospects, since financial data are retrospective. If companies in Singapore want to remain competitive, they will have to keep up with the global trend to report on sustainability, or risk missing the boat altogether.

ACCA Sustainable Singapore Website

At the Forum, ACCA, the global body for professional accountants, launched the Sustainable Singapore micro website, which was produced in partnership with CSR Asia and KPMG. The new website provides useful and timely information and resources on sustainability reporting for Singapore companies, who are currently behind its peers in ASEAN on sustainability reporting.

The section on ‘How can an organisation disclose sustainability information?‘ is useful for companies interested in and preparing for sustainability reporting. It includes:

  • Different ways to disclose
  • The reporting process
  • Reporting Frameworks
  • What kind of report should my organisation produce?

It briefly introduces the different sustainability reporting guidelines such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and ISO 26000, and also provides a simple and brief Q&A to guide companies on their reporting requirements.

There is a list of resources and websites related to sustainability disclosure, including:

  • Organisations/bodies in Singapore
  • International organisations
  • Sector-specific sustainability websites
  • Service providers

Companies can share their organisation’s sustainability report with other users at the Report Depository. There are currently four reports available for download by City Developments Limited, Singapore Airlines, Swire Pacific Offshore, and Power Seraya Limited.

The website would also offer the upcoming ACCA Sustainability Reporting Handbook, to be made available by the end of March. The handbook provides step by step instructions to assist organisations in developing a reporting framework based on the GRI guidelines, and includes a case study for SMEs that demonstrates how SMEs can also be involved in sustainability disclosure.

Proposed Policy Statement and Guide to Sustainability Reporting for Listed Companies

At the Forum, there were mentions and discussions on the recent announcement on sustainability reporting by the stock exchange in Singapore.

In Aug 2010, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) issued a ‘Policy Statement on Sustainability Reporting‘ and ‘Guide to Sustainability Reporting for Listed Companies‘ for public consultation till Nov 2010. SGX hopes to encourage more listed companies to commit to sustainability practices and reporting, but also said that sustainability reporting would be voluntary at this stage. A sustainability reporting policy is expected to be adopted by SGX later in 2011.

This move by SGX has excited CSR practitioners and service providers, and they see it as a positive move to push more companies to embrace CSR and sustainability reporting. There are no plans by SGX to make sustainability reporting mandatory for the time being. However, Channel NewsAsia reported experts who said that:

if companies don’t respond, sustainability reporting could stop being a voluntary act and become a regulatory obligation. And it may happen in as early as in three years.

Dynamic Reporting

In the Forum opening session, Richard Welford, Chairman of CSR Asia, shared his take on trends and challenges in sustainability reporting, such as the ‘institutionalising’ of reporting with involvement from stock exchanges, governments and institutional investors, and moving towards integrated reporting with the next generation of GRI framework.

He also shared about dynamic reporting, which is not about companies just having a one-off annual sustainability report, but is about a dynamic web-based report where the content is searchable and upgradeable as events happen. It is about having a living report that engages stakeholders, allowing them to post comments on the content, email questions directly, and share the content with others.

At Green Business Singapore, we support the idea of dynamic reporting as we find that sustainability reports in Singapore tend to be static one-off efforts and does not really build in stakeholder engagement and sharing.

We believe that dynamic reporting is the way to go in response to the increasing importance of radical transparency. In this Web 2.0 age, companies should make it easy for their stakeholders and the public to communicate with them, to provide feedback, and to share the company’s activities, and environmental and social impacts with their friends.

The latest SAP 2010 Sustainability Report is a good example of dynamic reporting, which includes dashboards for environment, social and economic performance, and the ability to post and rate comments, to share content via Facebook and Twitter, and to create a matrix to tell SAP which sustainability issues are important to stakeholders and SAP.

Did you attend the CSR Asia Forum too? Share your thoughts and let us know what we missed out.

Images: CSR Asia Forum on Sustainability Disclosure 2011 website screenshot; ACCA Sustainable Singapore website screenshot; SAP 2010 Sustainability Report website screenshot.

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