Trialogue has been reporting on the intent and effort of South African businesses to be enduringly sustainable for over a decade. Over that time period, the corporate response to sustainability has migrated from nice-to-have to mandatory. As fundamental forces such as resource scarcity and social inequity continue to underpin the sustainability movement, corporates are responding to more immediate pressures.
Companies are reacting directly to legislation and the plethora of voluntary standards where inaction is not only damaging to reputation, but could compromise a company’s business prospects. Consumers are constantly questioning the authenticity of brands and the value they claim to deliver to stakeholders. Investors, employees, communities and customers are looking beyond the balance sheet for proof of sustainable consciousness to determine the efficacy, longevity and success of a company. These combined pressures create a compelling case for a corporate response.
The magnitude of the corporate sustainability effort is evident from the many initiatives that are embarked on, particularly those undertaken in addition to the annual reporting requirement. These initiatives take the form of the application of ethical practice standards, supplier audits, stakeholder processes that inform materiality assessments and indicator-based frameworks that track anything from carbon usage to customer satisfaction. Yet, many of these initiatives are undertaken in isolation, without being integrated into operations or combined as a holistic, strategic process. So while multiple responses may be called for, an overall response that is driven by an understanding of purpose rather than blind compliance will distinguish the leaders in this field. Sustainability as an essential driver of core corporate business practice remains some way off for most.
Trialogue continues to contribute to thought-leadership in this field, through this publication and the Sustainability Forum discussions held in partnership with EY. This edition aims to showcase different perspectives around topics such as ethics, data, standards and reporting in the sustainability space. Interviews with experts also serve to shine a spotlight on topics like carbon tax, climate change, integrated reporting and addressing inequality.
Ultimately, evidence over evangelism has to be at the heart of any corporate sustainability plan. My hope is that the Annual Trialogue Sustainability Review 2015 will provide you with insights that lead to considered action and ongoing evidence of improved business practice.