Thomas C Pasztor

PotashCorp

The transparency inherent in sustainability reporting goes directly to the issue of trust in public/corporate relationships at a time when this issue is front and center in everyone's mind.

Many sustainable practices have long been ingrained in PotashCorp's culture and values. However, before the Company published its first Sustainability Report in 2003, there was no central place or common voice for communicating its efforts, progress, and remaining challenges in sustainable development.

Researching and writing the report helped to provide clarity and direction to the Company's sustainability initiatives. Through the reporting process, we were able to better gauge our strengths, as well as identify those areas where we can improve.

The reporting process also enabled us to take inventory of our performance measures, our current sustainability initiatives, and our strategic framework for continuous improvement in corporate transparency.

We wrote our inaugural triple-bottom-line report to satisfy the needs of the broadest audience possible. Industry jargon was replaced with common words and terms. And for the more knowledgeable stakeholder we provided a substantial amount of facts and documentation. Finally, to ensure ease of use, our report begins with a brief "How to Use This Report" section.

How to decide whether to report?

You will need to consider a number of factors when making your decision, but the bottom line will be: do you expect sustainability reporting will be beneficial for your company? You can inform your decision by identifying the types of benefits and costs you anticipate will be associated with a public sustainability report.

How to begin reporting?

You will need to make a number of initial decisions to inform and guide the report scope and content, and the reporting process itself. These include determining the:

• Issues coverage - What scope of issues will you include within the report? Many companies begin by reporting on one focus area (e.g., environment); others start by compiling and presenting the data and information they already have available.

• Boundary of the report - What business units, what facilities, what countries, and what time period will be covered within the report?

• Level of integration - Will the report be a stand-alone report or integrated into the annual report? Will it address economic, environmental, and social factors in discreet sections, or will it attempt to link and/or integrate a number of these factors to present a full picture of company performance and direction?

• Medium of reporting - Printed or electronic? Some companies begin by gradually making more sustainability information available on their corporate website; others begin by producing a printed report, supplemented by additional information on the website.

• Theme and key messages - Communications messaging and report design are important considerations. The report should be consistent with corporate branding and image, and should involve communications personnel from the beginning.

• Level of verification or assurance to be used - while few companies engage external verifiers to verify their first reports, it is helpful to engage stakeholders in the reporting process from the outset to identify their expectations for the report.

Figure 6.21. First steps in sustainability reporting.

In the months following the publication of our initial Sustainability Report, we have actively used the document with customers, employees, and investors. We also have made it available to the public, and mailed copies to targeted community, government, and media audiences.

Customer surveys conducted in December 2003 showed that about a third of our customers were aware of the report. They noted that they weigh economic, social, and environmental performance when determining whether to do business with a company. One large, international customer requested several additional copies of the report for forwarding to all of its division presidents as "must reading."

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