Our inspirational event on sustainability reporting and the new regulations took place on 22 November. Nearly 100 sustainability professionals gathered at De Hoorn in Leuven to learn about the CSRD and how to implement it in their companies.
Why did these sustainability managers show up in such large numbers? We can no longer ignore it. We are already experiencing the growing impact of climate change. We can no longer put it off to take action, if we want to meet Europe’s targets for 2050.
What should you definitely remember from our inspirational event? We list 7 key takeaways that you shouldn't just post on your notice board. Above all, take action yourself and shout it from the rooftops!
1. It has to happen right now
For decades, we have all been exceeding the limits of our planet. The impact for mankind, but also for the economy, is huge. Floods, hurricanes, forest fires, water shortages ... cause crop failures and damage to infrastructure and threaten the health and safety of employees. At the same time, companies face a host of transitional risks: stricter climate legislation, market disruption, technological risks and rising carbon prices. Companies that are not part of the solution will inevitably suffer reputational damage and even risk pricing themselves out of the market in the long run.
2. It is not too late
We are on the brink, but there is also positive news: it is not too late to turn the tide. The UN's 'Roadmap for a carbon-free future' (2020) shows that we can do a lot by adopting existing technologies on a large scale, such as energy efficiency, solar and wind power and home insulation. With the solutions already in place today, we could emit 30 gigatonnes less greenhouse gases per year: enough to limit warming by 1.5°C by 2030. After 2030, new innovations will be needed, such as battery storage and green hydrogen. Luckily, we still have some time left to further develop these technologies.
3. Every company has to follow suit
With the Green Deal, Europe aims to be net-zero by 2050. The European Parliament approved the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) on 10 November. This directive requires large companies to report annually on their impact on people and the planet from 2025 onwards. On the one hand, a sustainability report is a review of the past year's accomplishments. On the other hand, the directive also requires companies to look to the future. To that effect, Europe wants to see roadmaps, action plans and transition plans in the new sustainability reports. The European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) serve as guiding principles.
Companies that are getting started with reporting, will encounter the EU Taxonomy as well, which establishes the vocabulary for sustainable activities. Also coming up is the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDD), which defines what companies must do to avoid negative impacts on people and the planet, in their own operations and throughout their supply chain. Both directives entail their own reporting requirements, which are also part of the CSRD.
- Mathieu Neirinck, Program Manager Sustainability Belgium at KBC
The CSRD finally puts financial reporting and sustainability reporting on an equal footing
4. No report without implementing a sustainability strategy
A sustainability report is so much more than simply the document in itself. It is part of an integrated ESG journey, which must find its core in the fundamentals of your business. It all starts with a thorough analysis of where your company's impacts, risks and opportunities lie. Based on the results, you develop your ESG strategy, which you then implement step by step in your organization, turn into action plans and so on. All of these elements form part of the report. Your sustainability report is therefore both the capstone and the driving force of your ESG strategy. Year after year, you continue to build your strategy by evaluating targets and starting new ESG projects.
- Aurélie Comhaire, Group Sustainability Manager at Vandemoortele Group
It is important that sustainability is integrated into your business strategy, that it captures the attention of the management and the board of directors. But it is equally important that it finds its footing among employees. That's why we focus strongly on internal activation too
- Astrid Leyssens, Head of Sustainable Progress at VP Capital
Of course, the aim is not just to create a beautiful report, but especially to create real solutions. I would much rather see more beautiful actions and less beautiful reports
5. Get your colleagues on board
As a sustainability manager, you are faced with the task of involving your entire organization in your sustainable story. Early buy-in from the management is essential. Make it clear why sustainability cannot wait, ask for a clear commitment and keep them accountable during the process. Then set up a steering committee and designate an owner for each KPI. To make your strategy worthwhile for your business, it is important to invest in training as well (e.g. sales people, buyers etc.) and to get all colleagues on board by sharing ESG news via the intranet, newsletter, awareness campaigns etc.
- Anke Massart, Sustainability Director at Barry Callebaut
It is clear to our suppliers by which deadline we expect sustainable products or services from them. We engage with them to make the necessary investments together where possible
6. Tell your story
Your sustainability story is too valuable to keep it within your own walls. Once the strategy is in place, it comes down to widely proclaiming your story. Sustainability is so much more than being compliant with legislation. It is all about obtaining climate credibility: using sustainable products, services and business operations to make sure you are part of the solution and demonstrating that to your stakeholders. You achieve this by communicating your actual impact in a transparent, understandable way, with facts & figures, clear language, the necessary substantiation and catchy storytelling.
- Ann Peeters, Project Leader at Agoria
A sustainability roadmap does not consist of checkboxes. Rather, it is a work in progress that will last for many years
7. Do not put off sustainability reporting
2025 is tomorrow. So start your report on time, because first you have an in-depth analysis and an exercise in strategy exercise ahead of you, which will require you to involve a lot of other players. Due to the scale of CSRD obligations, it is not possible to be compliant in only a year’s time. It is wiser to tackle it thoroughly and step by step. A CSRD gap analysis is a necessary first step.
Ready to put this plan into action? We will help you with your sustainability report from start to finish and guide you through all the steps of your sustainability journey. Contact us via email@example.com.