Your guide to the Sustainability Reporting & Certification Ecosystem

Navigating the intricate world of sustainability reporting and certifications can be a daunting task, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). With numerous frameworks, guidelines, and certification schemes out there, it’s essential to make the right choices to improve transparency and meet stakeholder expectations.

At Founders of Now, we’ve simplified this complex ecosystem into three categories to help you find the most suitable path:

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Certification & rating bodies
These organisations have developed ESG-wide (environmental, social, governance) or topic-specific certification or rating systems based on information provided by businesses. They may gather data through questionnaires, surveys, or on-site audits.

One outstanding example is B Corp, a renowned certification scheme that sets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. With over 6000 certified B Corporations in more than 80 countries and across 150 industries, it’s a powerful recognition. To become a B Corp, you’ll need to respond to a detailed questionnaire and develop an annual impact report.

Other organisations, such as CDP and EcoVadis, have developed rating systems to assess business performance. EcoVadis, for instance, provides sustainability recognition levels like Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum based on your business’s score percentile.

Reporting frameworks
The primary goal of sustainability reporting frameworks is to provide a common set of standards for businesses to report their positive and negative impacts on the planet, society, and the economy.

A widely used standard is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), designed to be applicable universally across all organizations and sectors. While GRI standards are mostly used by larger corporations due to extensive requirements, SMBs can still use them as a basis for their sustainability reports and claim to have prepared the information “with reference to” the GRI Standards. Additionally, there are reporting frameworks, such as TCFD (for climate) and TNFD (for nature), which address topic-specific sustainability challenges.

Other relevant frameworks & guidelines
These are frameworks and guidelines not specifically developed for sustainability reporting but can greatly support businesses in improving their reporting activities. One well-known example is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While intended as goals for governments, businesses are also called upon to contribute to and report on the SDGs.

Other frameworks and standards that aid sustainability reporting include the UN Global Compact, Science-based Targets initiative (SBTi), and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Ready to start reporting? First off, take some time to weigh the pros and cons of each framework. Look beyond mere compliance and focus on aligning with the values and aspirations of your business. Transparent reporting can build trust with stakeholders, drive positive change, and create a lasting impact. Embrace sustainability reporting as an opportunity to showcase your commitment to the environment, society, and responsible governance, regardless of your business size!