Reporting Roundup: What the CommitForum Experts Had to Say about the State of Reporting, the Value of Assurance, When to Disclose What, and Why Leading Indicators are a Better Measure of the Future

This post provides highlights from a session of The CR CommitForum, held last week in New York City. Find a mistake in the text? Write us here to share the correction.

Last week's CR CommitForum featured multiple sessions that touched on the topic of reporting of sustainability and corporate responsibility initiatives. The general conclusion - repeated by multiple speakers in various ways - was that transparency fosters sustainability

Read highlights in the areas of:

  • General Reporting
  • Third Party Assurance
  • Disclosure
  • Leading Indicators

General Reporting Overview
Ernst Ligteringen, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

  • The US is behind on reporting.  said that 93% of companies in Denmark choose to report. Among the US Fortune 100, 80% do not report in 2008-09. US companies are behind on a growing trend. 
  • "Instead of being asked if you report, the new question will be why you don't." 
  • UBS was the first US GRI reporter to have their report assured by one of the big four consulting firms.
  • 18% of a company's value is made up of something other than their assets. 

Third Party Assurance
Steve Leffin, Director of Global Sustainability for UPS, & Eric Hespenheide, Partner, Global Sustainability and Climate Change, Deloitte & Touche LLP

  • "Assurance gives UPS a confidence level. We want credible processes, we want world standards, and we want someone else to look at them." 
  • Different levels of assurance: 
    • Review: moderate level of assurance expressed in the negative form: "Nothing came to our attention that causes us to disbelieve ..."
    • Audit: reasonable level of assurance expressed in the positive form: "In our opinion, in all material aspects, we believe this report ..."
  • "We look forward to assurance. It makes us better. We hit curbs, but we've never hit a wall." - Steve Leffin, UPS
    • Example of a curb: discovering that a partner had different methods of counting certain metrics. Needed to adapt to improve quality of the numbers. 
    • "It's an internal lever that I use to inspire my partners to get me info and measures that are credible."
    • It's a "gut check."
  • "Assurance is one of the best things we've ever done to lift our organization to another level. It's a leap forward in progress."  - Steve Leffin, UPS
  • Timing: accumulate data and write report from January 1 to August 15. 


Lawrence Ballard, partner, PWC sustainable business solutions; Chuck Bartels, director of global social responsibility, ManpowerGroup; Margaret Flynn, principal, BrownFlynn; Bahar Gidwani, CEO, CSRHUB; Tracey Noe, senior director of global citizenship and policy, Abbott; Val Smith, VP of corporate sustainability, Citigroup

  • What you disclose, you are held accountable for. The objective is to disclose smarter, not necessarily more. - Lawrence Ballard, PWC
  • 10-K disclosures bring the most scrutiny. 
  • "If you are of the attitude that you want to improve your company's performance, then disclosure is for you." - Val Smith, Citigroup.
  • Disclosure is a way of shaping the message. "You have to decide if you want to be invited to the dinner or be on the menu." - Margaret Flynn, BrownFlynn
  • The panel agreed that they get between 40 and 50 requests for disclosure annually, from clients, analysts and list makers. And those are only the requests that reach head-office level. Most agreed that they respond to all requests from clients, and have to be selective about what list/analyst requests they respond to. 
  • How to chose who to respond to: priorities opportunities that are high visibility, high credibility, important to the C-suite, will help us improve, is important to the industry. - Val Smith, Citigroup
  • Disclosure gives you a chance to benchmark against competitors. "Coming in somewhere other than first is a rallying cry." - Tracey Noe, Abbott. 

Leading Indicators

Julie Brautigam, director of ethics and compliance and sustainability, Baxter Healthcare; Stathis Gould, head of professional accounts, International Federation of Accountants; Michael Muyot, president, CRD Analytics; Bob Pojasek, consulting practice leader, Capaccio Environmental Consulting

  • Leading indicators are elements of reporting that indicate proactive work in areas of leadership, strategic planning, information and knowledge, and people development. Lagging indicators are measures of a result, which may not be predictive of the future. 
  • "The challenge is, there's not always a direct correlation between leading and lagging: the causation is tough to determine. - Stathis Gould, International Federation of Accountants
  • Innovation is necessary: leading indicators can show companies where that is taking place. - Julie Brautigam, Baxter Healthcare

Read another summary from CommitForum: 
Green from the Ground Up: One World Trade Center Builds with Green Concrete

Leaving a Positive Beer Print Behind

How Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Helped Bring Food Security to their Growing Communities

More on Sustainability: Move beyond greening to a place where sustainability drives innovation. Join our Senior Executive Roundtable with business sustainability pioneer Stu Hart, on Friday, Oct. 14th. This event also features Julie Brautigam of Baxter Healthcare, who is quoted above. More information at

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