Sustainability reporting — More than just the environment

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Courtesy of ABS Consulting

Recognize any of these names: Royal Dutch Shell, Shell International BV, ExxonMobil, Suncor, Total SA, Chevron Corp., BP, Hess Corp.? These organizations have produced nonfinancial reports describing their contribution toward a sustainable future. Their strategies and business plans are connected to the tenets of sustainability and focus on the “triple bottom line,” seeking outcomes that are socially and environmentally responsible as well as economically sustainable.

What is sustainability? Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Or, as defined by the United Nations Brundtland Commission’s “Our Common Future” (1987) — “the ability to provide for the needs of the world’s current
population without damaging the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.”

Sustainability reporting does not just focus on environmental issues. It goes beyond traditional financial, bottom-line reports and includes natural capital (environment and planet), social capital (equity and people) and economic prosperity (economy and profit).

Visualize three concentric circles — the economy as the inner circle, society as the middle circle and finally the environment as the outer circle. The economy exists entirely within society because all parts of the human economy require interaction among people.

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