From compliance to sustainable impact – the role of clear, coherent, and consistent sustainability data for businesses

Soundbites from a Sweden-US Green Transition Initiative event on June 20th co-hosted with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Sustainability reporting can be daunting, but it remains a key part of today’s business sector in order to drive the green transition and respond to the demands from stakeholders. To catalyze this transformative change, businesses must embark on a journey of self-discovery, comprehending their value chain, seeking improvement, and skillfully communicating their external impact. Thankfully, standards and regulatory requirements offer much-needed support by providing established methods and fostering comparability.

These were some of the main takeaways from a digital roundtable a digital roundtable organized by the US Green Transition Initiative with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Swedish Embassy to the United States.

Participants from Climate View, AstraZeneca, Volvo Group, Nasdaq, Calvert Research and Management, Position Green, Ecogain and S&P Global discussed a range of topics, such as the challenge of availability of data, and data quality. In a world of constantly evolving regulatory landscape and industrial standards, 60 % rank executing reporting in accordance with frameworks, standards, and regulatory requirements as the 1st or 2nd most significant challenge to their role. (Source: Nasdaq 2023 ESG & Climate Survey). Although sustainability reporting demands time and effort, participants in the event pointed to that the reporting as such also provides indispensable tools for tracking progress and enhancing stakeholder management. **With clear, coherent, and consistent sustainability data, the prospect of comparability emerges, allowing companies to shine as frontrunners in their industries. **

However, a word of caution echoed throughout the event: data, and plenty of it, is an absolute necessity. The quality of this data holds tremendous importance. It must strike a balance, offer comparability, and be contextualized to unlock its true potential. Armed with such robust data, gathering empowers customers, investors, and society at large to steer the green transition towards a brighter future. The good news is that new digital tools and technologies are emerging. These innovations enable both businesses and public sector actors to collect, process, and present sustainability data in meaningful and empowering ways. Generic software is no longer sufficient; instead, process automation beckons, offering integrated and standardized approaches to capturing, analyzing, monitoring, and reporting data. Equipped with the right tools and visualizations, businesses can make structured and fact-based decisions that align with their sustainability objectives. By integrating data platforms and engaging their supply chains, companies can extend their sustainability goals throughout the value chain and foster collaboration with suppliers across a wide spectrum of sustainability metrics. Through efficient system integrations, the potential to operationalize data emerges, granting managers the power to drive progress. Reporting should seamlessly integrate into existing systems and, crucially, the data must conform to diverse regulations and reporting frameworks, ready to withstand rigorous review

During this enlightening roundtable, participants welcomed regulations that foster standardization and comparability among companies. Such regulations prevent the unfair comparison of “apples with pears” and effectively curb greenwashing. Participants also highlighted the undesired effects of non-standardization of emerging regulations between regions, and the burden it places on cross-border business activity. Looking ahead, they emphasized the need for forward-looking key performance indicators and the development of additional tools to empower stakeholders, encouraging their active participation and engagement. Blockchain could be such a solution. Blockchain technology emerged as a potential game-changer in this regard, promising increased transparency and accountability.

In conclusion, the event was not just a gathering of brilliant minds but a catalyst for change. It highlighted the significance of clear, coherent, and consistent sustainability data in driving the green transition. By understanding their value chains, leveraging standardized frameworks, and embracing emerging technologies, businesses can unlock the immense potential for sustainable impact. The journey may be challenging, but the rewards are vast—meeting stakeholder demands, staying ahead of regulations, and seizing new business opportunities. Together, let us embark on this transformative path, where compliance becomes the foundation for sustainable success and where sustainability reporting becomes a powerful tool for driving positive change in our world.