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Reports 5 Dec 2014

See Change

How Transparency Drives Performance

By Margo Mosher, Lorraine Smith and James Wicker

SustainAbility has worked with companies over several decades to build and improve their sustainability reporting efforts. Since 1998 SustainAbility has convened the Engaging Stakeholders network, which explores the corporate transparency and accountability agenda. Our work with network members has contributed to more comprehensive reporting that has built credibility and effective engagement among stakeholders. And yet we feel there is a need to do much more in this area.

While we have pushed transparency forward in some ways, we acknowledge that our guidance has also contributed to a movement of producing lengthy reports, numerous questionnaires and surveys, and a sea of data. We recognize that it is time to revisit this agenda, and to spur a reinvigorated wave of reporting and transparency that drives impacts beyond fostering credibility and stakeholder engagement. To that end, as we embarked on this research we sought to answer one question: how can transparency drive improved performance?

See Change highlights specific ways in which transparency can in fact inform decision-making, drive change and foster improved performance.

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Our research has been informed by over 60 interviews with Engaging Stakeholders members and thought leaders, a survey of nearly 500 sustainability experts and additional desk research. Our findings highlight specific ways in which transparency can in fact inform decision-making, drive change and foster improved performance. We focus on three key elements of transparency: materiality, externalities, and integration. We also offer an advancement tool for implementing effective practices.

While we believe we have conducted a thorough review of current and emerging practices, given the dynamic nature of corporate transparency—in particular the technology related to capturing and sharing data, along with shifting policy and stakeholder expectations—we anticipate a continued evolution. It is a topic SustainAbility will continue to explore, and we invite feedback from you, our readers, corporate partners and other stakeholders.

More materials

See Change: The 2014 Transparency Survey

Read the results of our GlobeScan / SustainAbility expert survey which informed the report.

Download survey
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