The launch of the report of the Prince of Wales’ Accounting for
Sustainability Project just before Christmas was hugely important.
For the first time, business and the public sector now has a simple and clear
framework on which to base their sustainability reporting efforts. The process
of embedding sustainability deep in an organisation and making sure that
sustainability issues are reported alongside and connected with more
conventional financial information is now recognised to be of enormous
As a matter of course, companies are now saying that they have to do this.
For them it has become a business imperative. The effects of climate change are
a board-level issue. It’s not something that companies do in the belief it makes
them seem somehow nicer. The benefits are both financial and reputational. But
those benefits will not be properly felt if a company’s sustainability efforts
are not reported accurately and clearly.
The key thing to do now is to get a structure in place. The report provides
this in the form of a complete guide to the embedding process. It shows how
sustainability reporting can be connected with the rest of the reporting
The new website, set up under the aegis of the project, enables best practice
to be identified and learned from. As a result companies can see what other
companies have done and compare their efforts.
The fact that companies like BT, EDF Energy, Sainsbury’s, Aviva and HSBC are
already using elements of the reporting framework will give other companies
This does not have to be rocket science. All companies can do this and embed
it into the way they are doing things.
The project highlights the five environmental indicators that all
organisations should consider reporting on: polluting emissions, energy use,
water use, waste,
and significant use of other finite resources.
These need to be reported on, with benchmarks and targets, and clearly linked
to an overall strategy; it needs to be part of the day to day operations of a
Clear reporting brings issues into focus. If a company comes to measure and
state its use of resources, this could play a significant role in helping it to
reassess its usage and its needs.
Reporting could yet become a catalyst to help companies change their
behaviours. That is one of the goals and a challenge which organisations of
all kinds need urgently to engage with.
Richard Reid is vice chairman of KPMG and a board member of Accounting
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