Sustainability Reporting – Transparency, Assurance, and Verification 

2 November, 2022
Sustainability Reporting

Sustainability Reporting – Transparency, Assurance, and Verification 

Sustainability reporting and ESG reporting are more than just reporting standards or compliance guidelines. It can help serve other criteria to help build trust and transparency in stakeholders. And we all know – trust in a business goes a long way.

Take Patagonia for example. The whole world wants to buy from it because people who are aware know that Patagonia stands for something. How did they manage to build trust and loyalty of this kind that Patagonia has become a benchmark for sustainability and corporate sustainability reporting and a lot more? By being vocal and transparent. That is what it can do for your business if done the right way with the right intent.

A lot of questions may arise when you hear sustainability reporting. Like:
1. What is sustainability reporting
2. Is this reporting mandatory?
3. What are the different sustainability and ESG reporting frameworks?
4. What are the benefits of sustainability reporting?
4. How is transparency linked to sustainable reporting?
5. How to create a sustainability report?
6. The problem of Overselling sustainability reporting

Although the focus here is to address transparency and its ethical aspects, we’ll answer the basic questions to get you started and leave you with the best article for you to refer to make it easier.

What is sustainability reporting?

Sustainability reporting is the disclosure and communication of a business’s environmental, social and. governance (ESG) goals. Additionally, it includes future initiatives planned by the company to achieve the sustainability and environmental goals set by the company.

The benefits of sustainability reporting are:
1. Discovering and understanding the parameters that link to risk and opportunities for the business
2. Environmental reporting helps build long-term management strategy
3. Increase trust with stakeholders and customers
4. Builds transparency within and outside the business
5. Avoid non-compliance with the environmental legislation laws
6. Increases cost and resource efficiency through streamlined and optimised processes

Table of contents:

  1. What is sustainability reporting?
  2. What is transparency in a business?
  3. Why is it important to be transparent?
  4. What is the meaning of data transparency?
  5. Transparency in the context of sustainability
  6. Transparency in ecological data is vital for a wide range of reasons.
  7. Overselling Sustainability Reporting
  8. Sustainability Reporting Examples and ESG Reports

What is transparency in a business?

To understand transparency in business, a business needs to draft important questions and address them to create a “transparency strategy”. 

Transparency is not just a communication issue but is also a moral and ethical issue. Ethical dilemmas and decisions are essential in the case of sustainable or regenerative businesses which come out to the world through sustainability reporting. Because these companies focus on being accountable and taking environmental impacts seriously, authenticity and transparency become prime factors for building success and a brand’s trustworthiness. Companies need to illustrate commitment toward society, environment, authenticity, and activities that resonate with the same. 

It is important to recognize the difference between being transparent and authentic. Transparency is the amount of information that the business wants to share, while authenticity reflects the truth of the business. 

The prerequisite of a sustainable business is to approach the truth and share the reality with the world. A business that doesn’t share procedures does not have to be authentic – it simply means that there is no transparency. 

Theories that look into holding essential information and reshaping the corporate information are no longer applicable to the public that requires to know it all. 

Why is it important to be transparent?

The many environmental tags and claims exacerbate the issue. Some “clean” promises are unambiguous and true, while others, like “carbon-free,” “organic,” and “biodegradable,” are intended to provide a favourable first appearance without fully describing the environmental effect.

Since few customers have the time to research every transaction they undertake, tags are popular since they quickly confirm a product’s sustainable credentials. However, the procedures for getting these labels are sometimes faulty and include programs designed to attract widespread involvement (and payment from manufacturers), which lowers the threshold for eligibility. Additionally, there is duplicate labelling, which confuses consumers and forces producers to certify the same goods many times.

The universal standard is defined by ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 – as it shows the areas that manufacturers need to look at to reduce the environmental impact. 

What is the meaning of data transparency? 

Data transparency is the procedure of making data accessible to all. It is essential as it allows people to make reasonable decisions, helps them to keep accountability, and creates trust and reliability.

Transparency in the context of sustainability 

There are many ways in which data transparency helps to implement sustainability. One of the crucial ways is to create better environmental management procedures. The systems allow businesses to maintain and improve their sustainable impact and make amends with proper regulation. 

This can be implemented by sustainable procurement activities. It is essential to ensure that businesses adhere to the standards laid out and that the products and services that they purchase don’t hurt the environment. 

The tracking of greenhouse gases produced can also lead to data disclosure and traceability. Companies can identify improvement opportunities to lessen their ecological impact by monitoring their pollutants.

It is increasingly crucial to be able to monitor and cut down on our carbon emissions given the escalating threat posed by global warming.

Making sure that information on greenhouse gases is clear and verifiable is one method to do this. We can be certain that the information we are utilizing is accurate and current in this way. We can track the source of our pollutants and find strategies to cut them thanks to accountability.

Transparency in ecological data is vital for a wide range of reasons.

  • The information can be tracked to its origin thanks to its transparency, which is its first advantage. This is crucial for guaranteeing the data’s authenticity and correctness.
  • Second, openness makes it possible to compare various data sets, which is crucial for recognizing patterns and themes.
  • Thirdly, it gives consumers a way to hold businesses responsible for how they perform when it comes to sustainability-related concerns.
  • Finally, openness contributes to increased stakeholder trust in companies.
  • It promotes business security and advances corporate sustainability objectives. It may cover issues like how employees are treated and a seller’s attempts to enhance employment conditions.

The information we use to inform our judgments must be visible and trackable as we quickly move toward a more statistical society. We can confirm that our data has just been sourced locally and that judgment is using correct data to create crucial environmental choices by following our statistics from its sender to the recipient.

A significant factor in climate change is CO2 emissions from human activities and commercial activity. We can trace these emissions and determine how to minimize them thanks to tracking.

For the sake of maintaining our privacy and preserving the environment, data openness and provenance are crucial. Businesses that don’t follow these criteria will be at a loss in the international market, which is becoming more and more intense.

Overselling Sustainability Reporting

Ponder on this image by Global Reporting Initiative. GRI reporting standards are one of the widely followed standards for corporate social responsibility reporting.

GRI sustainability reporting standards - ESG Reports vs Carbon emissions

Overselling Sustainability Reporting

We’re confusing output with impact.

This HBR article by Kenneth is an eye-opener. Give it a read to understand that just reporting is not enough.

Sustainability Reporting Examples and ESG Reports

Here are a few sustainability reports of some of the top, billion-dollar businesses for your reference:
1. Patagonia
2. Coca-Cola ESG Report 2021
3. Nike Impact Report
4. All-birds Sustainability Report 2020
5. Apple 2014

Good On You is a great website to discover conscious, transparent brands and also see how mindful the brands you buy from are.



1. What is sustainability reporting?

Sustainability reporting is the process of providing information about a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in a transparent and consistent manner. This information can be used to assess a company’s sustainability performance and inform decision-making.


2. What is the importance of sustainability reporting?

The importance of sustainability reporting is that it allows companies to communicate their efforts to address environmental and social issues and to be held accountable for their performance. It can also help companies to identify and manage sustainability risks and opportunities, and to improve their overall sustainability performance.


3. Sustainability vs ESG Reporting

ESG reporting and reporting for sustainability are closely related. ESG reporting specifically focuses on environmental, social and governance factors while sustainability reporting is broader and includes environmental, social and economic factors.


4. What are sustainability reporting tools?

Sustainable reporting tools include software and platforms that help companies to collect, analyze, and communicate information about their sustainability performance. These tools can include data management systems, performance metrics, and reporting templates.


5. What are the sustainability reporting principles?

Sustainable reporting principles are guidelines for reporting on a company’s sustainability performance. They can include principles such as transparency, consistency, and materiality.


6. Is sustainability reporting the same as CSR?

Sustainability reporting is related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but not the same. CSR focuses on the social and environmental impact of a company’s activities, while sustainability reporting is more focused on providing information about a company’s performance on a wide range of sustainability issues.


7. What are sustainable reporting standards?

Sustainability reporting standards are guidelines that companies can follow to ensure that their sustainability reports are consistent and comparable. Some of the common standards include Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Integrated Reporting Framework.


8. What is a sustainability reporting framework?

A sustainability reporting framework is a set of guidelines and principles that companies can use to report on their sustainability performance. It can include elements such as scope, materiality, and assurance.


9. What is corporate sustainability reporting?

Corporate sustainability reporting is the process of providing information about a company’s sustainability performance to external stakeholders, such as investors, customers, and regulators. It can include information on environmental, social, and governance performance, as well as economic performance.

There is a growing need to adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that aim to “Transform the World”. Change comes with collective effort, mutual understanding and knowledge toward specific goals.

Despite the UN and other international organisations making crucial decisions, the result is far from expected. It made me wonder what it is that we are falling short on. Is it the lack of interest or lack of awareness?

That’s when I had a eureka moment, and it suddenly started to make all sense. Many people don’t know the complicated terms and references that are used when we talk about sustainability. The idea inspired me to create a new series called “The ABCs of Sustainability Development”. I hope that this series of blogs is well received and serves its purpose.


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