Most established companies have gone from seeing sustainability as compliance to a survival strategy and business opportunity. Sustainability reporting is crucial in measuring and communicating a company’s efforts, but it is a challenge. When it comes to accessibility reporting, the frameworks are still lacking. But the news is that the times they are a-changin’.
If you ask your Head of Sustainability or have a conversation with your sustainability consultants, they can ensure you that the field of sustainability reporting can be a complex one, and also that it’s currently an area in continuous development. New regulations and directives are making accountability more and more comprehensive. From 2024 thousands of European companies will need to comply with CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive). Of course, this development reflects the needs in our world today.
However, while there are guidance and helpful tools regarding the environment and climate action (such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Science Based Targets), social sustainability is far behind with measurement tools to facilitate rapid change. This is confirmed by Magdalena Frembäck, Head of Sustainability Reporting and Strategy at Ethos, one of Sweden’s leading management consultancy firms in this field:
– Yes, I agree that general reporting on social sustainability is rather blunt so far, which partly depends on how and what you are allowed to measure (in Sweden and the EU).
To keep up to date with all the news behind the acronyms in the field is a challenge, and so is understanding the preferred reporting standards (there are many!). While ESG has been a favorite among investors, some stakeholders have their own ways of filtering and comparing companies. The GRI Standards 2021 (Global Reporting Initiative) is the most adopted standard for nitty gritty sustainability reporting for complex and simple company structures. It’s comprehensive both with data points and specificity, enabling more accuracy and is therefore preferred when it comes to compliance. (Go in depth here.)
– As far as we can see, there is no definite key figure to measure accessibility. But at least there is a lot happening in this area at the moment. Social sustainability is increasing on the reporting front as the GRI has been updated to better align with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. The same regards the CSRD with the associated ESRS (European Sustainability Reporting Standards), which should be presented later this fall after a few months of public consultation, says Magdalena.
The CSRD explicitly refers to the UNCRPD (UN Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities), with Article 9 referring to accessibility (read it here). The most relevant of the drafts of ESRS is S4, concerning consumers and end users, with one objective regarding information about social inclusion – non-discrimination and equal access to products and services. We believe that this new perspective is really welcome. (Read more about ESRS here).
– The guidance on how data should be measured and reported on according to CSRD is so far not completed and depends on the final decisions of the ESRS. Possibly we will see some change in the ESRS and perhaps in future sector-specific standards, which will take a few years, Magdalena notes.
So, with this background, you might wonder ”Where to start?” when it comes to reporting about equality and inclusiveness in general, and physical accessibility and disability inclusion in particular.
Corporate sustainability has so many variables to embrace – the type of company, size, location, experience with sustainability issues, etc. The main point is that your unique sustainability conditions and possibilities should be embedded into strategy, operations, and reporting in a transparent manner. Basically, doing the groundwork and adjusting along the way. One clear rule is that you should measure what’s happening within your company and the whole value chain – from cradle to grave and from subcontractor to end user. And this holistic quality points out how deep and broad sustainability reporting is. The risk analysis involved works in both ways – the report should describe how the business affects the outside world, but also how the changes in the society or environment affect the business. We need to remember the benefits of making these adjustments in accordance with your assessments. Oftentimes new innovative solutions will show up, savings are to be made due to more efficient workflows, etc – and in the case of physical accessibility, it’s about opening up your business for more than 20 percent of the population. It’s all in Handiscover’s mission: Enabling an accessible world.
Even though we are not certain to what degree accessibility will be a part of the CSRD yet, it’s important to strive for continuous improvements to facilitate life for people with special needs.
– Presumably, you will need to supplement your reporting according to CSRD with standards/key figures from interest organizations and/or multilateral organizations, says Magdalena.
Actually, that is Handiscover’s vision, to be a part of that change and involved in policy making. Our platform has great tools for tracking your improvements, visualizing them through dashboards and making reports of all your data. Read more about our platform here, and our tips on how to report your accessibility impact here.
||Magdalena Frembäck, Head of Sustainability Reporting and Strategy at Ethos, one of Sweden’s leading management consultancy firms in this field.
Our 6 tips on your reporting journey:
Prioritize through analysis
Since sustainability is acknowledged as a vital part of your business strategy, you have to apply the same thoughtfulness to it as any other decision. Key to this, is the stakeholder analysis and materiality analysis, applying the double materiality perspective. You need to set clear priorities and with this good foundation, you are on top of your game and can make a strategic and tactical roadmap.
Set clear targets and KPIs
Learn more about your chosen framework. The social aspects have been centered around your workforce, supply chain, and impact on society. Go in-depth and make sure to set the most valuable targets and KPIs, aligned with the standard.
It is all about impact
Energy, money and time can make such a difference in impact, depending on the focus area. Allocate resources accordingly. You might want to pick some low-hanging fruits, simultaneously as you work towards your bigger challenges and goals. Find your unique recipe, and be both consistent and open-minded on the journey. It is all about the ”how” at this stage, how targets will be met and how progress should be reported on.
Be inspired by thought leaders in your field
There are a lot of best practices out there, to both learn from and get inspired and challenged by. Since financial and sustainability reports are easily accessible, go grab them and see if there is something you can do even better.
Call in an expert
You need professional advice to bring knowledge, awareness and updates in such a broad field as sustainability. Do what you do best, and get insights from a team of experts. It is worth it.
Dare to communicate
Tell the world (and all your stakeholders) about your improvements in a transparent way, without any kind of ”washing”. Don’t just communicate your goals, but also the goals you didn’t meet, and the failures and wins along the way. Show, don’t tell. Show the world that you are walking the talk – and talking along the walk. Trust is key when it comes to sustainability.
The relevant standards in ESG and GRI
There are several aspects in the social part of the ESG that is relevant for accessibility – depending on the filter, i.e. if related to the workforce or community building, such as infrastructure and community empowerment. And in the case of the GRI Standards, it’s mainly about these standards set in 2016: GRI 405: Diversity and Equal Opportunity and 406: Non-discrimination, but also 401: Employment, 402: Labor/Management Relations, and 404: Training and Education.
Make sure to keep yourself updated on CSRD and ESRS these coming months.
Between 2024 to 2026 thousands of European companies will comply with the CSRD. Make sure to start tracking according to the regulations in time, since the reporting year is one year ahead of these dates:
Source: New rules on corporate sustainability reporting: the provisional political agreement between the Council and the European Parliament. Read it here
- 1 January 2024 for companies already subject to the non-financial reporting directive
- 1 January 2025 for large companies that are not presently subject to the non-financial reporting directive
- 1 January 2026 for listed SMEs, small and non-complex credit institutions and captive insurance undertakings
How to report accessibility and disability inclusion. Read the article here
Handiscover’s solutions are in alignment with these UN Global Goals. Go to the article here
”ESG is a process, not an outcome.” An insightful article about the strengths of the ESG, by McKinsey. Read it here.