Business Times

Corporate response to sustainability insufficient

Lankan business leaders urged to change trends at ACCA Sri Lanka Sustainability Awards

With the corporate response to sustainability still insufficient, Sri Lankan business leaders – attending the ACCA Sri Lanka Sustainability Awards presentation recently were urged to change these trends.
“We are still vulnerable as an economy and as a nation to all the issues that are at the heart of the sustainability debate and the response required to make a real change is far more than what we have today. We urge you, our business leaders, to make the difference and commit to a sustainable agenda to the institutions that you lead,” Nandika Buddipala, President ACCA Sri Lanka said, addressing a high profile gathering.

Chief Guest, Director of GRI Focal Point India Dr Aditi Haldar confirming this, said, “Accounting for sustainability and preparation of reports present key environmental, social and economic information alongside more conventional financial information to give a more rounded and balanced picture of the organisation’s overall performance, enable environmental and social performance to be better connected with strategy and financial performance, and thereby embed into day-to-day operations and decision making.

But the challenge is to ensure that sustainability information is included in mainstream reporting, is strategically important and forms part of the decision making process of the business, reflecting the organisation’s strategy and the way it is managed.

On the sidelines of the event, she told the Business Times that 80% of the Fortune 250 firms adopt the GRI (Global Reporting Initiatives) system in their annual reporting. “The disclosure on corporate economic, environmental and social performance has become the norm among larger companies globally. Over 80 % of Global Fortune 250 companies (G250) now disclose their sustainability performance in ‘sustainability’ or ‘corporate responsibility’ reports, of which more than 75% use GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework as their basis. GRI’s vision is that reporting on economic, environmental and social performance by all organizations becomes as routine and comparable as financial reporting,” she said.

She noted that responsible business practice is the recognition of, and response to the interconnectedness and interdependence of business within our world of which the global financial crisis and climate change are consequences. “Responsible business practice advocates that the true costs and obligations of business and organisational activity are accounted for - both financial and non-financial and require a process of accountability, transparency and comparability through reflection on actual business impacts, risks and opportunities and also through integrated and inclusive management processes,” she said.

This year saw ACCA rewarding firms under the categories of small, medium and large for their reporting tenets benchmarked against GRI guidelines. Hatton National Bank, DIMO and HNB Assurance emerged winners in the large, medium and small categories with Chemanex and Union Assurance coming in as runners-up in the small and medium categories respectively. The large category saw Ceylon Tobacco Company and John Keells Holdings adjudged as joint runners-up.

Mr. Buddipala said that businesses could be forgiven for thinking that the climate change agenda should be placed on the back burner while they grapple with the impact of the global recession, but they are missing an opportunity. “The first step is to truly understand our environmental impact. Accordingly, as business leaders, we need to measure our carbon footprints. Then we can understand how to make reductions, and report on how successful we are in making those reductions. We need to set out our own clear targets, and build those targets into our rewards structures,” he said.

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