Real-time reporting – the next step in the evolution of sustainability management reporting

Over the past 20 years, there has been considerable and rapid evolution in the discipline of sustainability management.  From a barely-noticeable point on management’s radar prior to The Global Reporting Initiative releasing the initial version of its sustainability reporting guidelines in 1999, sustainability management has become one of the key focuses in the boardroom.

 

With the growing emphasis on sustainability management, companies are going to demand better systems that enable a consolidated view of the health of a business in real-time. Current systems simply aren’t cutting it and sustainability management reporting doesn’t deliver the required insights.

 

“Over the past two decades, systems have been developed to enable reporting in a more coherent and standardised way, in response to the growing awareness of the impact that business has on the environment, and as companies have begun to realise that running a business sustainably is simply good for business because it leads to longer term profitability.

 

“In tandem, there have also  been other, practical, changes to reporting standards, such as the move with G4 reporting to a focus on materiality. This has shifted priorities to what is most important.  –“Looking ahead, the trend towards real-time sustainability management reporting will gain considerable traction as companies become increasingly focused on being truly sustainable enterprises, and as sustainability systems and reporting standards continue to evolve,” says Dennis Marketos, director  at Metrix Software Solutions Pty Ltd.

 

Evolution, like the tides, cannot be held back. It is the driving force behind not only the way life develops, but the way business, technology and even social practices change and adapt. In business, as in nature, non-viable creatures such as Enron, with their false promise of easy money, die out, outlived by businesses with truly sustainable operating principles.

 

Similarly, systems that can’t keep pace with the evolution of companies’ sustainability objectives will too die out.

 

A parallel can be drawn with the evolution of ERP software and systems. The bureaus that ran systems for businesses in the 70s, provided batch-based reporting, with final numbers only presented several weeks after the end of the month. Business also had multiple systems, often from different suppliers, for managing, their general ledger, cashbook, stock and purchasing.