3 trends in sustainability reporting

#sustainability communication  •  20/06/2023  •  Eva Schobyn & Lien Moris

Busy preparing your sustainability report? Be sure to keep an eye on the latest trends and standards. That way, you create a report with impact.

Technische criteria

At the end of November, IBR (the institute of company auditors) announced the best sustainability reports of 2022. Of those, two reports by our hand won an award . We are thankful for this recognition, as we once again set the bar high for our clients and ourselves.

Our clients' sustainability reports are proving to be real trendsetters. But what are some of the evolutions in the world of sustainability reporting? For the award ceremony, IBR took a close look at no fewer than 47 reports. They spotted three trends, fully in line with the new European legislation on reporting:


1. Environment, social and governance


The quality of the governance chapter is a key criterion that differentiates companies with high maturity from companies less advanced in reporting. Many organizations forget that the 'G' in ESG stands for 'governance' and that it should be an integral part of their sustainability strategy and reporting. Especially in the future. Because with the new European directives approaching (including the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive or CSRD and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive or CSDD), the role of the board and management in sustainable value creation will increase, as will their sustainability and reporting responsibilities. Involving the top level in your organization may seem like a no-brainer, but far from all companies have formally embarked on this journey.

The draft European Sustainability Reporting Standards (linked to the CSRD, effective since December last year), as well as the new GRI standards that took effect on 1 January 2023, provide a good framework for the governance chapter in your report. So what should be covered?

  • the structure of the board of directors and the management team, and their roles and responsibilities in relation to ESG
  • gender diversity in management and supervisory bodies
  • how your company takes ESG criteria into account when awarding bonuses
  • the way you examine impacts and risks of your company and enter into dialogue with your stakeholders about them (materiality assessment)
  • internal governance rules and control systems (such as whistleblowing, a grievance mechanism or a code of conduct), both for own operations and throughout the supply chain (e.g. with a supplier code of conduct)

Good example

In Vandemoortele's 2021 integrated report, we already included a comprehensive governance chapter, anticipating the new standards.



2. A well-balanced story


A sustainability report is not merely a display of good news. Fortunately, this realization is increasingly permeating the business world. More and more organizations publish more balanced reports and dare to share their negative impacts, unachieved goals and less successful stories. Realize that sustainability is a process: true sustainability is about transparency and raising the bar systematically.

In the years to come, transparent companies will be better able to manage their reputation, especially now that Europe requires companies to present targets, commitments and real facts & figures. All kinds of stakeholders, ranging from consumers to NGOs to jobseekers joining your company, are becoming increasingly sensitive to this. So stop glossing over or omitting things in your report; that will not do your reputation any good in the long run.

Good example

Oxfam Fair Trade's 2021 sustainability report offers a transparent look at all the indicators the organization monitors, for example the quality score it calculates as a measure of how well its quality system works. In doing so, Oxfam Fair Trade honestly reports on poorer results and explains them.



3.The entire value chain included


A good sustainability report not only covers your organization's footprint, but also considers that of your value chain: from your suppliers and subcontractors all the way to your clients and the users of your products.

Transparency in the value chain also involves SMEs in European reporting. Because even if, as an unlisted SME, you are not legally required to publish a sustainability report, your clients who do have to comply with that obligation will still come knocking on your door to gather knowledge of your impact and to request data.

Good example

Again, we are happy to cite Oxfam Fair Trade's sustainability report. The organization reports extensively on the impact it has through its trading partners, employees and customers.


Want to make sure that your sustainability report is a trendsetter as well? Contact us at or ask for one of our consultants at 016 60 11 17.


Source: IBR

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