The value of sustainability reporting

There’s hardly a week goes by without me receiving a sustainability report. The latest is from Ahlstrom, a global leader in fibre-based specialty materials.

There was a time they weren’t the most exciting of reports to look over. However, that has changed, primarily because you get good sense of how a business is conducting its affairs and operating over the short to long term. In addition to producing a global sustainability report, a growing number of multinational companies are reporting on local sustainability performance at the regional, country, and site-specific levels.

Today’s released from Ahlstrom explores trends in Ahlstrom’s business environment, as well as the 2022 report including information on Ahlstrom’s ongoing business transformation. Sustainability highlights from 2022 include the commitment to set near-term company-wide emission reductions in line with climate science with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), and its Platinum EcoVadis certification.

Ahlstrom is uniquely positioned as a global leader in developing a wide range of sustainably and technically advanced specialty materials. In line with its purpose to “purify and protect”, the company’s offering consists mainly of renewable materials that, through their functionality, provide sustainability benefits that help solve global challenges – for instance purify air and water, protect people from harmful chemicals, or protect the environment from plastic pollution.

Helen Mets, Ahlstrom’s president and CE said in 2022, the company made strong progress on its “transformation journey”, setting higher ambitions for growth, sustainability and innovation.

“Our sustainable and technologically advanced specialty materials are of great value to our broad customer base. Building on this platform will give us exciting and extensive opportunities to create further value for our employees, customers, investors, and society at large,” she said.

By increasing the value of sustainability reporting, I’ve found that while stakeholders may generally view this trend as a positive development, they caution that in order to be of more value for both business and society, sustainability reporting needs to move beyond a pure communications exercise.

Creating sustainability reports requires transparency. Companies are held to their view on the world and their part in creating a just and sustainable world. Sustainability reporting defines how companies address the world’s biggest sustainability challenges. They also serve as platform for dialogue. What’s not always taken into account is that companies see the world through the lens of their specific products, and technologies, and don’t always see the bigger picture.

Beyond the reporting framework, I’m sure many ask how do we tell our stories better? How do we connect more with what our stakeholders are telling us they care about? Are we providing the right data?  And more.

It’s a big job – it’s a work in progress and with time gets easier and it gets better.

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