In 2014, Carnival Corporation & plc conducted an analysis to reevaluate the significant economic, environmental and social aspects of its operations, to further assess the relative impacts of these aspects, as well as to determine the required components to transition from GRI-G3.1 to GRI-G4 sustainability reporting. Known as a “materiality assessment”, this analysis enables the company to determine which aspects substantively influence the assessments and decisions of its stakeholders; recognize and act effectively in relation to sustainability related opportunities and risks; and, determine how these aspects affect its stakeholders, society and the environment. During this evaluation process the company simultaneously conducted a benchmarking analysis of major hospitality, travel and marine industries. These two analyses provided a framework for determining which aspects to focus on in its fourth annual Corporate Sustainability Report.
As part of its materiality assessment process, Carnival Corporation & plc:
- Reevaluated the significant issues presented in its prior sustainability materiality assessments.
- Reviewed the environmental, social, governance and economic aspects and indicators in the GRI G4 sustainability reporting guidelines, as they apply to its business.
- Analyzed the results of stakeholder sustainability engagements, including investor and customer inquiries, questionnaires and surveys from rating organizations, industry reports and analyses, policies and regulatory guidance, among others.
- Benchmarked its sustainability strategy using publicly available information.
- Held internal meetings to discuss company perspectives on sustainability aspects and impacts.
- Examined over 50 aspects and issues, including areas of significant organizational impact, as well as broader sustainability trends (GRI G4 46 Aspects).
- Mapped the full universe of stakeholder and company aspects on a materiality matrix, identifying the mid and high-scoring issues as priorities for its operations. This mapping enabled the company to:
- Prioritize information on the basis of materiality, analysis of environmental aspects and impacts (ISO 14001), sustainability context, and stakeholder inclusiveness;
- Agree on the desired content for each metric and the approach to reporting (qualitative vs. quantitative detailed performance tracking, etc.); and,
- Expand supply chain materiality.
APPLYING THE RESULTS
The chart published in Carnival Corporation & plc’s FY2013 Corporate Sustainability Report summarizes the results of the company’s materiality assessment and shows, for each aspect, its relative concern to the company’s stakeholders and its current or potential impact on the company.
Materiality is about identifying the issues that matter most to Carnival Corporation & plc’s business and to its stakeholders. “High” and “Medium” issues help the company to set the agenda for its sustainability strategy and for what it included in its current and future sustainability reports. “Low” issues, while important and managed by the company, are not currently covered in detail in the company’s sustainability reporting as they are of lesser concern to its stakeholders.
Carnival Corporation & plc plans to perform this materiality and benchmarking evaluation every two years, to make sure it continues to address its stakeholder needs, operational impacts, regulatory landscape and technological developments.
[This case study originally appeared in GEMI’s Quick Guide on Materiality.]