Competence, or the lack of it, on sustainability matters
All in all, our survey presents the similar outcome as other surveys, when it comes to the question of competence. According to the UN survey, approximately 40 % of SMEs are having their own sustainability policy (4). Our respondents are performing a bit better for 45 % had their own sustainability policy that they follow, and every third of the respondents had specially appointed person to take care of sustainability plan. But it was also admitted that there is lot to learn. Majority of the respondents (66%) felt that they were relatively or moderately competent on sustainability issues. Respondents evaluated that they had most competence on managing sustainability (32%) and least competence on measuring the sustainability progress (66%) and finding the right Key Performance Indicators (54%). Data for measuring sustainability is mostly collected by excel, 40 % have sustainability embedded into weekly agenda but only 27% on board meetings.
Food for thought
Companies are more and more using the reporting tools like GRI, General Reporting Initiative or SDG Action Manager (5). These tools provide a valuable platform to collect yearly data and present a coherent picture of sustainability actions. Nevertheless, there may be an opportunity missed here, for benefiting more from timely data to show the progress and impact of actions and having an ongoing communication with employees, owners, customers and other stakeholders. Fact based, conceptualized reporting is crucial and annual sustainability reports are perfect for that, but bringing your sustainability data alive, using it to daily and weekly basis to communicate with your stakeholders may bring more engagement, transparency and chance to react more quickly to changes.
When it comes for identifying the right KPIs and measuring the sustainability progress, we recommend that companies would look a bit deeper into the impacts on their actions, and cross reference them between environmental, social and governance impacts. Study the SDG indicators (not only the targets or title), ask if-then questions to set up the framework and identify the limitations of your indicators. To increase your competence on measuring the progress, analyze each step of your performance and set up targets. Make sure the targets are supporting each other, not contradicting each other.
(4) Uniting Business in the Decade of Action, United Nations. 2020.