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Our Insights 12 Oct 2010

Guest Blog: Lessons on Sustainability Reporting from Brazil

By Clarissa Lins

Brazil is just about to elect its new President after 8 years of the current government. Although Lula’s partisans were feeling they had already won the election, Brazilian citizens have shown that they need more time – and information – to decide who will set the rules over the next 4 years. Road to Credibility 2010 will be launched just before the second round and will – no doubt – be a good opportunity for all of us to shine the spotlight on issues such as transparency, accountability and governance.

What have we learnt from this year’s process? Brazilian companies want to somehow be better known and sustainability reporting has been a tool adopted by a growing number of entities – we had almost twice the number of reporting companies than in 2008. If I had to highlight a few key factors that explain this growth, I would go for:

  1. the importance of the innovative spirit that allows some companies to differentiate themselves;
  2. the influence of clear guidelines; and
  3. the need to be accountable to a diverse audience, locally and abroad.

Even the best reporting that will be highlighting this year does not show a consistent level of quality, commitment and transparency to sustainability performance. On the failures and difficulties faced by Brazilian companies in sustainability reporting, I would definitely mention the lack of integration into core business strategy and documenting the business case. It seems Brazilian managers are not keen to evidence the value of sustainability management! They should be, as sustainability is a competitive factor. Additionally, we still have to raise awareness amongst a variety of actors on the differences between the triple bottom line concept and charity or philanthropy – a social agenda Brazilian companies are very familiar with.

What should we expect for the near future? Further innovations in format and content of sustainability reporting – including a growing use of social media – to engage different stakeholders; a growing commitment of Brazilian leaders to a transparent and accountable way of reporting, and; correlated with these trends, an ever higher demand for reliable information.

Lastly, I would like to stress that we really enjoyed working, once more, with SustainAbility on the Global Reporters program. We are happy Brazil was chosen as a case study for the rest of the world. We are proud of what we have reached so far, even though we recognize the long road ahead to assure that Brazilian companies are fully credible, accountable and committed to a sustainable world.

Clarissa Lins is Executive Director of Fundação Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável (FBDS)

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