A new effort to make open — and free to the public — environmental, social and governance records of U.S. and global corporations will launch at Rules Change-The DC Gathering.
“Companies are disclosing more and more information about their social and environmental performance,” says Bill Baue, an Amherst, Mass.-based corporate sustainability engagement consultant, who is running the project, called “ContextReporting.com” with co-founder Tom O’Malley. “But this data deluge is locked in individual pdf reports, creating a big logjam for activists and the public being able scrutinize and compare sustainability impacts among companies.”
Baue says Rules Change-The DC Gathering will feature a ‘hackathon’ to begin crowdsourcing data-gathering to upload into the ContextReporting online platform. it enables year-to-year and company-to-company benchmarking as a means of holding companies accountable.
Baue says there are several high-priced sources of data about how corporations are performing on social- and environmental-progress indicators – such things as toxic and greenhouse-gas emissions or wages and working conditions. But there is no free, open source for that data.
Baue says ContextReporting will initially allow users to compare Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data across industries within seconds, for free. Eventually, he hopes the site will add collaboration tools for users
ContextReporting.com has been trialing the idea in pharmaceuticals, computers and peripherals and semiconductors, in a unique partnership with the graduate student at Saint Lous University’s Center for Sustainability, Stephanie L. Simowski. During fall, 2013, Simowski gave a group of fellow students 10 hyours of training on how to gather corporate sustainability data, says Baue. Then each student earned credit by spending 90 hours gathering such information. Their data-collection on the three sectors is up to 100 companies.
Now, says Baue, it’s time to figure out how to crowd-source the data collection, then fund careful sifting and checking of the data before it is put online publicly. A New York-based non-profit research firm, The Governance & Accountability Institute, has tracked the data. But until Baue and O’Malley emerged with ContextReporting, there wasn’t an approach to putting it into a free, public database.
“At Rules Change, we plan basically a [socially-responsible] hackathon on Saturday and Sunday, March 15-16, where we’ll collect and look at the data, and then do some real-time quality-assurance work on it,” says Baue. He hopes that NetImpact members will be among those helping.
“Companies complain that nobody reads the sustainability reports and websites they spend so much time and expense preparing,” says Baue. “And stakeholders who rely on this information from companies bemoan the increasing barrage of data that lacks the necessary context to assess its relevance and validity. “
Enter ContextReporting, a free sustainability data visualization and benchmarking app, to fill this gap. It’s designed around Global Reporting Initiative indicators in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) realms. So you can dive deep into key performance indicators (KPIs) such as total water use (E), product responsibility and human rights (S), and board structure (G).
Let’s say, for example, you’re wondering about the carbon emissions of the semiconductor industry. Just click the first listed profile, Advanced Micro Devices, then under “Emissions Reduction” click “Total CO2 Equivalent Emissions,” and Voilà! — up pops a chart of performance from 2007 to 2010, showing AMD’s emissions going way up in 2008, then back down through 2010.
The Global Reporting Initiative writes on its website that “an awareness and uptake of sustainability reporting has increased dramatically in recent years. Many organizations consider sustainability reporting to be necessary and beneficial. But growth in sustainability reporting needs to be exponential for it to become a standard business activity.” o make sustainability reporting standard practice, GRI is:
- Standardizing sustainability reporting and providing up-to-date guidance
- Creating capacity through training and outreach
- Promoting a Report or Explain approach to sustainability reporting policy
- Supporting the development of integrated reporting
For more information or to help with the sustainability-reporting project, contact Baue by email at email@example.com.