On 31 January members of Deloitte’s* Sustainability Services team joined in the launch of Focal Point USA, the new U.S. office of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), at the New York Stock Exchange. Focal Point USA aims to boost the number of U.S. companies reporting on sustainability performance in a consistent manner, to improve the quality of those reports, and to increase U.S. organizations’ input into developing new guidelines for sustainability reporting.
It’s clear that U.S. companies are putting an increased emphasis on their approach to sustainability reporting as evidenced by the sold out crowd and representation from large companies, NGOs and academics from across the country. Our clients are interested in bringing their reporting on non-financial performance to the same level of maturity as financial reporting in order to provide their stakeholders with a more comprehensive view of a company’s overall performance, taking environmental and social performance into consideration. The establishment of the GRI Focal Point USA is a key step in driving more frequent, accurate and robust reporting on sustainability performance in the U.S. and will be critical to the eventual move towards integrated financial and non-financial reporting.
Several important themes emerged during the event that further emphasized the importance of integrating sustainability into broader corporate strategy. There was robust discussion on the theme of “sustainability makes business sense” and the need to connect sustainability metrics with both individual and corporate goals and objectives. Another major theme was the role of the CFO in sustainability management and reporting. This is clearly an important focus for Deloitte as we work with thousands of CFOs on their companies’ financial reporting, compliance requirements, and stakeholder expectations.
As with reliable financial reporting, there are many possible benefits for a company that implements assurance processes and reporting on sustainability activities. In addition, through a reliable sustainability reporting and assurance process, management demonstrates its desire to deliver accurate and useful information to its various stakeholders. Therefore, it is important that companies’ reporting on their ESG efforts become more uniform and reliable.
As the move towards integrated reporting further materializes, it will be critical for us to help CFOs understand the financially material impact of their organizations’ environmental and social performance, and how to report on that performance in a consistent and meaningful way—supported by a roadmap for further integration into corporate strategy and continuous improvement.
We look forward to the challenge and the opportunity!
Eric Hespenheide is the Global Audit and Enterprise Risk Services Leader for Deloitte’s Sustainability & Climate Change Services Group.
*As used in this article, “Deloitte” means Deloitte & Touche LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.