Reporting: burden or asset?

Pirjo Jantunen serves as Environmental Specialist for the energy utility Helen Ltd. in Finland and as Chair of the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders. She worked with BCC on sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement. Pirjo discusses the value of reporting with BCC’s Mathias Pianowski and Willi Cornel.

 

Pirjo, last time we talked about stakeholder dialogs at Helen and how crucial it is for your company’s decision making. Do you use the information gathered during that process for your sustainability report as well? And how important is reporting to you?

We report about our actions – we do not do what we do in order to report. One of our strategic goals is to be the most responsible actor on the market, so stakeholder involvement is indeed crucial for us and helps us to find ways to improve interaction.

And then of course we adjust our reporting accordingly. We are trying to focus on our most material sustainability issues, energy mix and emissions, as well as future development plans.

 

Are you reporting in accordance with a standard like GRI?

No, we are not following any standard. Of course, the basic structure of sustainability reports is quite similar and the tradition of CSR reporting is well visible in our report as well. But our CSR report is rather compact compared to many others and most of the CSR communication is executed via other channels such as blogs, social media, web pages, a customer magazine and so forth.

Roughly said, I am against GRI. Not categorically, but you should not report according to any standard just because. Instead, you should have a reason to do that. However, that does not mean you cannot do a good report according to GRI. But we do not feel there is an actual added value.

 

What about comparability of the information? Also, reporting according to a standard provides third party assurance and thus makes the disclosed information more credible and trustworthy.

Yes, it certainly can. But I do not see any problem with the credibility of our report and none of our stakeholders has required a GRI report. I feel that even though we are not always doing what stakeholders would want, they do not doubt our honesty. Of course, if there were demands to adapt GRI or another standard, we would certainly reconsider it. Most of our competitors report according to standards such as GRI. But our stakeholders are not comparing the reports of the energy companies in general. They are more interested in our actual actions, e.g. the increase of renewables, than our reporting.

 

Do you get feedback on which part of the report the readers are most interested in?

Yes, we have an online report and we follow the webpage analytics continuously, so we know which topics are the most interesting ones. Also, we try to improve the usability of the report.

The problem is that not many stakeholders read our CSR report, even though they are interested in the issue. So instead of concentrating on reporting one should consider how stakeholders want to have the information presented. And why not ask them? Well, that is what we did. In brief, our stakeholders were interested to get information and exchange views on current sustainability issues via different channels: discussions, social media, blogs, panels. The CSR report was not mentioned spontaneously.

 

Then why should you report?

That is a good question! I think it is sufficient, to provide stakeholders with the information they need, no matter where and how they get the information. We have a corporate blog, where we publish articles about topical issues and the progress of current projects. It is more real-time, more proactive than an annual sustainability report.

We are trying to incorporate our sustainability report into a multi-channel approach. Somewhere between social media, blog and web page; like a dynamic network of CSR communication in diverse channels. I do not see quitting the reporting as a solution, but changing the way to do it. In the end, it is all about communicating the company’s sustainability initiatives to our stakeholders, right?

 

Pirjo Jantunen

Pirjo Jantunen is a corporate social responsibility professional working in the energy sector at Helen Ltd. She is specialized in energy issues, environmental and responsibility communication, and stakeholder involvement.