What is a sustainability report?

Whether it’s occupational safety for seamstresses or low-emission mailing, large companies must provide information in a sustainability report on how socially and environmentally friendly they operate. An overview of the most important points.

What a sustainability report is

Do good and talk about it: Since 2017, sustainability reports have been mandatory for large companies across the EU. They must disclose their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to society. It’s about the sustainability of their business. For example, companies can provide information on how far they have come to reducing their electricity consumption by 20 percent over the next three years. Or how they make sure that their suppliers respect the rights of the seamstresses. And how they want to make mailing more climate-friendly by 2023.

Who needs to publish a sustainability report

Whether Siemens, VW or Deutsche Telekom – the reporting obligation applies to:

  • All capital market-oriented companies as well as credit institutions and insurance companies with more than 500 employees.
  • In addition, their sales must be more than 40 million euros or the balance sheet total must be more than 20 million euros.
  • Small and medium-sized companies are not directly affected – unless large companies request information from their suppliers.
  • For example, if an automobile manufacturer wants to report on its supply chains, it must obtain the relevant data from its suppliers.
  • Studies show that many of the more than 6,000 companies affected are already reporting on their CSR and sustainability measures. At the same time, many are looking for ways to provide the best possible information about their activities.

What the report must contain

The companies concerned must provide information about the ecological, economic and social impact of their business in a sustainability report or in their management report. These include:

  • Environmental, social and employee concerns
  • Combating corruption and bribery
  • respect for human rights
  • Diversity concept for the composition of the company management, the control bodies and the supervisory board

What a sustainability report is for

The reporting obligation is intended to encourage the affected companies to recognize ecological, economic and social challenges. However, that alone is not enough: companies should work on acting sustainably and responsibly. This presents a good sustainability report. He…

  • … enables a critical look behind the facade of the company.
  • … describes what has been achieved and what has not yet been achieved using examples.
  • … contains relevant and verifiable key figures on goals and measures.
  • … creates trust among employees, customers and the public.
  • … strengthens the credibility of the company.
  • … is a door opener for sustainably oriented investors.

What is required for the report

There are no uniform, binding specifications for a sustainability report. The companies can decide for themselves according to which standard they report and how comprehensively.

  • Possible pilots are national, European or international frameworks. The best known include the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) , the German Sustainability Code (DNK) and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) .
  • If the companies do not use a sustainability standard, they must justify this.
  • Studies have shown that numerous companies are now voluntarily committing themselves to measurable goals. A specification can e.g. B. to reduce CO2 emissions by 2025 by 20 percent.
  • So far, however, only a few companies have linked part of their executive board remuneration to sustainability goals.

Who evaluates a sustainability report

Since 1994, the Institute for Ecological Economic Research (IÖW) together with the business association future e. V. carried out a ranking of the environmental and later sustainability reports. They evaluate the reports of large, small and medium-sized companies from all over Germany. The result is an annual ranking.

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