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  • Writer's pictureMarisa

Life Beyond Sustainability Reporting

Many businesses here in Singapore are now concentrating on preparing to begin the process for sustainability reporting. From 31st December 2017, publicly listed companies in Singapore will be required to create and compile such reports detailing the impacts of their business activities in relation to the environment and society - as mandated by the Stock Exchange of Singapore. No longer will it be acceptable to simply report on aspects which are viewed as solely related to economic risk factors of their business. Historically these have a very narrow and specific focus, on information which was previously viewed as material to key stakeholders such as investors, from a financial relevance perspective only.

So far, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the companies - Singaporean SMEs (who fall under this mandate) are reluctant to invest the time, money and resources into their sustainability report either due to:

  1. Uncertainty of efforts required.

  2. Viewing the exercise of stakeholder engagement, materiality, information gathering, and then subsequent report creation - as a cost.

  3. Fear / backlash / negative response and implications of reporting ‘incorrectly’.

  4. The fact that they lack the understanding of the benefits that it could afford them in developing their business opportunities passed the process of reporting.

What many businesses here may not yet see - beyond the cost, is that sustainability reporting is the fundamental start of the journey towards sustainability as a business opportunity. Or in other words  - towards innovation.

The emphasis on the reporting directive, has taken many away from the idea that it can also serve as a quasi-health check for the business. The process itself, whichever framework an organisation eventually decides to use (GRI, ISO, CDP to name but a few), reveals many things about an enterprise's practices and shines a light in areas that were traditionally dismissed as irrelevant or immaterial to operations, sales, profit, let alone possibilities for new revenue-generating opportunities; additional customer segments, alternative business models, process improvements and more, to explore.

For us here at the Inceptery, we see this as something positive for (our) business. There are businesses in Singapore who offer reporting and such related services that support the process in various ways.

The Inceptery offer a fundamental part of a service to help companies to get started initially by understanding the basics of reporting - which predominantly begins with a materiality assessment.

From an innovation perspective - it (sustainability or integrated reporting) gives business owners the chance to examine what areas in their organisation could benefit from prioritised attention.

What organisations will find is that reporting will reveal many possibilities to change within the business. Innovation is not simply a spray and pray practice of mystery, with no processes and completely random yields. As a real discipline, it has both structures and processes (amongst other things) which have been developed to help optimise the chances of meaningful outputs for success. It is an investment that any company needs to consider if they want to go beyond surviving to thriving, as well as bringing themselves further forward, ahead, in the market. Reporting will be a forced inroad into change.

With many industries facing the challenges of the global economic slowdown - we believe that this imperative for reporting helps to provide a methodological assessment of sorts for companies who may want to embark on innovation of some kind but are unsure where to start. For those who cannot get a well rounded perspective on where to channel valuable and limited resources or some direction it can provide a more comprehensive evaluation. For those who need buy-in from other committed parties it also provides information to other stakeholders and most importantly, it is ultimately the chance to be engaged in shared value creation.

One might consider that if a company only ever does the reporting, it will surely be simply a cost. If no further action is taken beyond the investigation, no improvement is made. Once armed with detailed information about your (positive and negative) impacts from the reporting - the next step is to convert that into the opportunity for innovation. Innovation by its very nature is never a guaranteed success, but there are processes that organisations can then use to give it it’s best chance of flourishing.

As a metaphor, having an examination with a physician without ever actively looking for ways to improve one’s health away from cure but towards prevention and wellness might be seen as missing the chance to create the robustness and resilience in your health (business) to withstand the potential maladies ahead. Many of which presently affect businesses at an increasingly rapid rate.

There are so very many parts of that innovation program that need to come together like a perfect storm in order for success to prevail. By using a combination of frameworks that help encapsulate and help elicit the qualities needed at different stages of (sustainability-led) innovation and transformation - we believe that reporting is a great start to that journey.

We ourselves draw from a range of such specialist tools in order to optimise the experience and perspectives from across various respective disciplines towards triple bottom line innovation. We offer bespoke programs for those wanting to embark on a visionary and future-oriented exploration of what their business should be for the evolving world we live in. If you would like to talk to us in more detail about how we can help your organisation transition from the old paradigm towards the new horizons, get in touch with us.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

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