Zimbabwean businesses need to engage in sustainability reporting but the question that runs in people’s minds is what exactly is sustainability reporting and how does it benefit a business.

Sustainability Reporting is the practice of measuring, disclosing, and being accountable to internal and external stakeholders for organisational performance while working towards the goal of sustainable development. A Sustainable report provides a balanced and reasonable representation of the sustainability performance of the reporting organisation, including both positive and negative contribution.

These reports are intended to be vessels of transparency and accountability to improve internal processes, engage stakeholders and persuade investors. Sustainability reporting is not an event but a process which includes preparing, connecting, focusing one’s efforts, monitoring and reporting. Preparing involves planning the sustainability reporting process on how it will be done followed by engaging stakeholders in the reporting process.

Data can be provided regularly to senior decision makers to shape the organization’s strategy and policies, and improve performance. The process also includes deciding material issues to report on whereby a business chooses areas to focus on. After choosing the focus of the report, building the report becomes the next step, it involves monitoring how the reporting process is coming along.

Organizations can improve their sustainability performance by measuring, monitoring and reporting on it, helping them have a positive impact on society, the economy, and a sustainable future. The last stage of the process is report writing and communicating the report to the public. Systematic sustainability reporting helps organizations to measure the impacts they cause or experience, set goals, and manage change. It helps organizations to measure, understand and communicate their economic, environmental and social and governance performance.

A sustainability report also presents the organization’s values and governance model, and demonstrates the link between its strategy and its commitment to a sustainable global economy. It connects departments and encourages innovations whilst achieving competitive advantages and leadership.

The key drivers for the quality of sustainability reports are the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines enable all organizations worldwide to assess their sustainability performance and disclose the results in a similar way to financial reporting. Sustainability reporting is therefore a vital resource for managing change towards a sustainable global economy, one that combines long term profitability with ethical behavior, social justice and environmental care.

Author: Debra Nhokwara

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