Sustainability reporting and making information on an organisation's sustainability practices and measures available is incredibly onerous and time-consuming, but needn't be, says Lorraine Gevrey, EMEA Business Development for SAP Sustainability.

Gevrey was speaking at the inaugural SAP Sustainability Summit held in Johannesburg last week.
“Disclosure is not only to customers, but to the market as well and when you look at the Fortune 250 companies in 2005, one out of three was reporting on sustainability – today it is 80%,” she said, indicating the growing importance of this measure of corporate governance.
“And once you start reporting sustainability, you have to report auditable, credible and traceable information. “This is made all the more challenging because everybody is concerned by sustainability and have to provide information, but they are also busy with their operational duties. You already have lots of information in the company, qualitative and quantitative and it is spread across multiple systems and multiple teams, so it is a lot of work to just collect that information.”
It is for this reason that SAP has based its SAP BusinessObjects Sustainability Performance Management solution on its netweaver platform.
“In developing the solution, we identified three main activities in order to execute the sustainability strategy:  achieve the strategic objectives, produce creditable disclosures and reduce the time and cost of data collection,” explained Gevrey. “On top of this, the solution is providing management processes and analysis to communicate the effectiveness of the strategy at a ground level.”
By addressing sustainability reporting and management at this level, she says, companies are able to achieve three major benefits: these being that this places sustainability at a strategic level, i.e. companies can move from sustainability reporting to strategic execution, companies can now disclose data on reliable information, therefore reducing risks of inaccurate disclosure and the data gathering is automated and repeatable, reducing time and cost to compile disclosure. In addition, the solution allows the management teams to identify inefficiency and opportunities for improvement, and increases credibility to stakeholders.
“Today financial reports are audited, tomorrow sustainability reports will follow the same path, and therefore the data and disclosure based on the information the company provides has to be reliable and auditable,” she said.
Some of the key benefits to businesses and management include the reduction of risk due to the veracity of information provided via the solution, and a reduced cost in collecting and collating the information. Importantly, the solution introduces accountability as each of the sustainability key performance indicators are linked to a person in the organisation responsible for that particular area.
“This not only helps improve internal disclosure and communication, but the focus on strategic direction and not data collection will force attention to what is working or not working instead of blindly gathering information for the sake of a report,” she said.