Business stakeholders and consumers have been enlightened by technology and education systems in the world, they are more informed on their rights and how companies should treat them. The enlightenment has necessitated the need to adopt a change in financial reporting systems where companies are including sustainability report in the statements to be evaluated by stakeholders.
Sustainability reporting incorporates financial and non-financial reporting that covers three areas, economic, social and environmental performance of a business. The change is likely to offer a competitive advantage to businesses when appropriately adopted.
In 2000, a group of international nongovernmental organizations, with the aim of compelling businesses to include sustainability reports in their financial accounts formed The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition; prior to the formation, sustainability reports were seen as marketing and public relations tools. Sustainability reporting incorporates financial and non-financial reporting that covers three areas, economic, social and environmental performance of a business.
The structure of the reporting is not rigid to form part of main financial statements, but can take other forms of additional accounts like sustainability report, triple bottom line reports or social impact report (Robert and Krzus, 2010). This paper discusses why there has been a sudden change to sustainability reporting; it will evaluate sustainability reports of Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest.
Sustainability reporting can be defined as current reporting standards, where a company in its accounts incorporates all stakeholders and how it has affected their lives; it looks into social dimensions, economic dimensions and environmental issues when reporting its operations.
Like in conventional financial reporting, the accounts must be measurable, comparable and contain valuable information for decision making; the approach to sustainable reporting has been supported by a number of international bodies as they strive to make guiding principles in that effect; such bodies include The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
They are meant to offer guidance and supervisory services to international accounting reporting standards that incorporates sustainable reporting.
Australian Certified Public Accountants body has supported the move to sustainable reporting; it is launch, the body gave some advantages that companies are bound to benefit form if they adopt the reporting strategy. They include:
The reporting adopted communicates volumes to the world regarding the current operation and the respect that accompany accords to its stakeholders. When a company is seen as looking into all spheres of its shareholders, then when shareholders are making investing decisions with the company will have an all round evaluation approach.
T he reports should incorporate both positive and negative social effects; the spillover that a company have to the society should be of consideration. Stakeholders have increasingly been aware of their rights; they are demanding the rights in their organizations thus compelling companies to adopt a sustainability reporting system.
Shareholders and employees of a company are increasingly interested with the future and sustainability of their companies; when using one report or an integrated approach, companies are compelled to report their accounts in all spheres to develop a framework of operation that offers quality information to its staff and stakeholders.
As motivational policies, employees and shareholders need to realize the value that their company is adding to the world; they will feel more valued when they realize they work/hold a company that respects the will of the people.
Going-on concept of business can be reflected by the relationship that a company maintains with its stakeholders, if there is health relationships, then customer will be willing to use the company’s products into the future. When all sphere of a business are reported, then stakeholders will be able to gauge future strength more effectively.
Of late, there has been a change in management approaches; the diversion has been to mange a business that creates value to its customer as it seeks to develop strong brand name. Such strategic policies include, ethical business operations, move to creation of brand loyalty and brand extension and public relations.
To have an effective campaigns in the above management approaches, then companies have no option other than to use sustainable reporting approach. When customers are loyal to a certain business, then business risks in the future are reduced
Of late, there have been a number of moves compelling companies to conduct their business in socially, economically and environmentally acceptable manner; the bodies have enlightened customers on their rights.
The bodies have come up with standards that they require businesses to comply with when reporting in their accounts, there are number of international protocols that have been signed among countries to push for ethical code of conducts in businesses, they include environmental reporting and corporate social responsibility reports (AUSPIC, 2011).
There are some features that can be attributed to an effective sustainable report such features include:
Sustainable reports should offer the true and fair representation of what is happening on the ground; it should not offer information that skews to one side or one that is not genuine. The contents of the materials should not be general information about a company but should go into finer details of what the company does; with sustainable reporting, the data offered is crucial for decision making by all affected stakeholders.
Sustainability reports should not be within thin air reports but must be seen to have close connections with the financial accounts as reported in a business. The impact and their effects in a business should be well reflected within the frameworks of an organization.
Sustainability reports should be user friendly and consumable by the target users; they should contain some jargon with the aim of confusing the users but they should be straight forward and to the point. The information contained should not be not a “data dump”; this means that the information should be testable and applicable as the organization claims (PARKER, 2010)
Newcrest is Australian largest mining company that adopts sustainable reporting strategy in its accounting; the reports are published alongside the company’s financial accounts. The management and directors of the company own up the reports form the company and have the report divided into four main sections:
This section gives a detailed analysis of the commitment that the company’s management has in conducting an ethical business, the report shows commitment of top management in pioneering a sustainable business. This goes well with the principle of integration with financial accounts as required by sustainability reporting. The management shows their concern on the effects that the company have on social, economic and environmental factors.
The report offers some guiding expenditure reports that it has had in the past financial year; this meets the criteria of accountability and measurability. The company has embarked on improvement of some sectors of the economy within its environs; it has actively been involved in making transport networks leading to the mining’s sites and does not restrict community use of the systems.
The reports offer detailed reports on how it is doing and willing to do to conserve the environment. The report discusses some indicators that can be seen in the community. The company appreciates that as a mining company it uses large volumes of water, energy and other resources; it has thus embarked on conservation measures; one of the most common method used is recycling and lean management system of operation.
With collaboration of stakeholders and the public, the company has enacted environmental conservation methods like carbon emission reduction, tree planting and offering environmental training to stakeholder. All these efforts can be seen on the ground thus measurable and genuine.
The report offers a user-friendly report that can be tested and adds value to the knowledge that people held with the company. The company employees talent people from the locality and only gets to international labor market when the domestic market fails to provide the wanted talents, it aims at maintain healthy relationships with its neighbors, characterized by mutual respect, active partnership, and long term commitment (Newcrest Mining Limited, 2010)
Sustainable reporting is a new reporting approach where financial and non-financial information are disclosed in periodical financial statements.
The growth of the approach has been facilitated by enlighten of customers and stakeholders who compel organizations to make accounts that reflect their social, economical and environmental implications. Companies that have adopted the policy benefit from healthy public-company relations that leads to customer loyalty and reduced business risks.
AUSPIC., 2011. Sustainability reporting. Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations In addition, Financial Services (PJCCFS), (1)1, pp. 1-7.
Newcrest Mining Limited., 2010. SUSTAINABILITY REPORT 2009 [Online]. Available at: http://www.newcrest.com.au/pdf/Sustainability%20Report%202009.pdf [Accessed 26th March 2011].
PARKER, L., 2010. Sustainability: The Whole Story. Intheblack, (80)11,pp. 34-37.
Robert, G. and Krzus, M.,2010. INTEGRATED REPORTING For ASUSTAINABLE STRATEGY. Financial Executive, (1)1, pp. 29-32.