Sustainability reporting and coronavirus
Each year, sustainability report writers have to deal with unique circumstances. This year, COVID-19, or coronavirus, has presented a myriad of new challenges for companies and reporters alike. For sustainability reporters completing their current reports, the question is: should information on coronavirus be included, and if so, how?
On sitting down with Rolf Schwery, Executive Director of SchweryCade, we discussed some of the problems and possibilities that report writers will face as a result of COVID-19.
First and foremost, should report writers add information regarding COVID-19 to their report?
RS: Yes, we recommend regardless of your reporting period, whether you are still in it or it ended with the calendar year, you should include information on COVID-19. This pandemic is having an effect on businesses worldwide and to omit it would essentially be ignoring something that could change the way your business is run in the next six months or the next six years. The fourth principle of GRI on report content, which focuses on ‘completeness’, gives you also the logical justification that we should include information on your approach and initiatives COVID-19 situation.
How should it be reported on, then?
RS: We recommend not to adapt the materiality matrix or replace the content of the sustainability report that you planned to present. This information is still valid and important for investors, ranking agencies and other stakeholders. Perhaps you should use the opportunity to shorten some paragraphs, delete some case studies as this information does not get the due attention it disserves.
If you have progressed already quite far with the sustainability report we advise you at least to adapt the letter of the CEO and create a supplement focused on COVID-19.
What kind of information should go to the COVID-19 Supplement?
RS: You should definitely outline your management approach and how you plan to handle the crisis. The activities can have an impact on different topics such as on employment and labour relations, on occupational health and safety, on disaster relief programmes and the impact on local communities.
Some specific case studies might be developed on relevant projects or activities that may be done to waylay the crisis. This could include donations of medical supplies, etc. For some companies, this could even include changing their operations, for example, clothing companies and garment workers becoming mask sewers and providers. If offers the opportunity not just to show how the corona crisis impacted your business, but it also shows on how your company can contribute to a culture on health to fight the pandemia and the worldwide crisis linked with it.
We suggest using an appendix be added into the report rather than rewriting the report sections. If you are in an earlier phase where you can make additions directly into the report, then this is also acceptable, but as a separate document it gives you the needed flexibility to add or update the content if necessary.
As we have received requests for more information on this topic, we will be holding a webinar on it next Tuesday, 14 April. We invite you to sign up, and we hope to answer all of your questions on sustainability reporting and coronavirus then.