Comparing public and private sustainability monitoring and reporting

02-12-2014 | Publication

Over the last 20 years, sustainability reporting has become standard practice for many large companies – partly due to government regulation – and this information is increasingly used by rating agencies to assess and rank companies. More and more countries are compiling their own indicator sets to monitor national economic, social and environmental development.

Aligning public and private sustainability monitoring and reporting

This paper presents a comparison of trends and challenges for sustainability monitoring and reporting at national and company level. National and company level reporting systems were developed independently and use different standards and methods. Alignment of systems could help to reveal the potential contribution by companies to global goals and targets, such as the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, it could heighten the relevance of company reporting and rating, and allow governments to improve the monitoring of businesses’ sustainability performances.

Challenges in company reporting

National reporting slowly harmonises along frameworks developed by the statistical community and the UN. In company reporting several standards and guidelines have emerged but new ones are still developing. Company sustainability reporting is mandatory in many countries, but it is unclear whether this leads to changes within companies and helps to achieve public goals. There are also challenges with respect to the quality of reporting and rating, and in incorporating complex issues, such as biodiversity and ecosystems.

Governments could encourage the exploration of improved alignment of national and company reporting, and help guide the development of company sustainability reporting to support public interests and goals.