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Sustainability Reporting: Communicating Progress Effectively and Transparently

Within the textile and apparel industry, sustainability programs have become an expectation. Increasingly, customers, investors and consumers are demanding transparency and visibility around sustainability initiatives, often in the form of annual reports.

However, developing an appropriate and representative report is not always straightforward amid fluctuating stakeholder expectations, trends and attention spans.

As such, many companies choose to follow existing frameworks to provide consistent and repeatable metrics, understand their progress, benchmark against peers and communicate initiatives to stakeholders.

Sustainability reporting frameworks

There are numerous sustainability reporting frameworks that companies choose to follow, some of the most prominent include:

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): The first and most widely accepted standards for sustainability reporting, the GRI framework involves identifying and reporting on material aspects (economic, social and environmental) for your company.

Of the world’s largest 250 companies, 92 percent report on sustainability and 74 percent use GRI standards to do so.

United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs): Internationally recognized and agreed upon by nearly 200 countries, the SDGs outline ambitious goals to protect the environment, eliminate poverty and inequality, and promote peace and prosperity across the globe.

Today, more than 4,000 voluntary commitments to the SDGs are listed on the UN’s online partnership platform.

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CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project): CDP offers an established platform to report on carbon, forestry, and water impact for your company, with a Supply Chain module to incorporate supplier results. Encompassing governance, strategy, and results, CDP grades disclosures from A to F.

87 percent of companies that disclose to CDP Climate Change have identified business opportunities and are taking action to address climate risks, worth $53 billion in savings.

Task Force on Climate- related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): TCFD provides a framework for reporting on climate change-related financial risk to provide consistent and complete information to investors and stakeholders.

As of June 2018, 286 companies have expressed support for TCFD, representing $7.1 trillion in market capitalization and $86.2 trillion in asset management.

Why report?

There are many reasons to compile and distribute a sustainability report to your stakeholders.

  • Financiers are actively seeking to invest in companies that plan for the future–including environmental and social sustainability.
  • Increasingly, customers and consumers expect both transparency and sustainable practices from the businesses they purchase from.
  • Measuring and reporting on progress helps you stay competitive and understand industry trends.
  • Environmental and social issues present material financial risks–actively managing and reporting on these topics helps ensure accountability for future growth.
  • Reporting on your sustainability initiatives brings together internal and external stakeholders to align sustainability goals with your business strategy.
  • Identify ways to grow your business or reduce cost through sustainability initiatives and stakeholder engagement.

The sustainability reporting process

Sustainability professionals can help you at any stage of the reporting process, whether you are planning to disclose for the first time or are looking to enhance and verify your existing report.

Getting started:

  • Determine the reporting structure that aligns with your organizational goals
  • Conduct a materiality assessment and stakeholder engagement to identify material reporting areas
  • Create a roadmap for future reporting needs and identify gaps in current initiatives and programs

Improve for growth:

  • Define metrics, collect data, and develop your report
  • Design a custom report to meet your company’s unique needs and priorities
  • Identify ways to improve your report to guide strategy and action
  • Plan for continuous improvement and enhanced initiatives and goal-setting

Evaluate success:

  • Benchmark against peers and industry leaders to identify current gaps
  • Identify improvement areas and opportunities to exceed stakeholder expectations
  • Validate your report to GRI or CDP requirements
  • Verify data with third-party assurance

In the end, whichever framework your company chooses to align to, the most important thing is that the textile industry continues to take action and make commitments in the name of advancing sustainability initiatives globally.

NSF International is an independent, global organization that develops standards, and tests and certifies products across industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide with operations in more than 175 countries.

NSF’s sustainability certification, testing and, separately, consulting services can lower risk, increase growth and reduce costs, while instilling marketplace and investor confidence. For more information, contact us at