Unscrambling the alphabet soup of ESG reporting – Edie 23

Last month, James Skidmore, Valpak Head of Consulting, was invited to speak about ESG reporting at Edie 23 - Sustainability Leaders Forum. In his blog, James outlines the importance of ESG reporting and summarises some valuable insights gained from fellow panellists.

On 27 February, I was invited to speak on a panel at Edie 23. Previously known as the Sustainability Leaders Forum, this year’s event focused on leadership through crisis and the seminar I was asked to participate in was titled “Unscrambling the alphabet soup of ESG reporting”.


What is ESG reporting for

ESG reporting stands for environment, social, and governance and such reports disclose data about a company’s environmental, social, and corporate governance initiatives.

These reports should provide a view of how sustainable and responsible a business is, with environment highlighting how it is a steward of nature, social communicating how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and communities, and governance demonstrating its approach to leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.

Lessons from fellow panellists

It was very inspiring to be sharing the stage with Harriet Howey, the global non-financial reporting and ESG Lead for Diageo. Hearing how Harriet and her team turn around their corporate ESG reporting to meet GRI (and a long list of others!) standards in just 35 days from year-end (the fastest in the FTSE 250 year after year) got me thinking about how this is only possible if environmental objectives are the very heart of an organisation.

It is not achievable if this is merely an annual (and global!) report. For Diageo, it must have become an annual snapshot of a 365 days a year living process, with true daily accountability and ongoing measurement. No mean feat in such a competitive market.

The Valpak Consulting team is working with some businesses that are at the start of their ESG and environmental reporting journeys; therefore, embedding such action into the everyday activities of our customers would define our success – and is the only way to maximise their contribution toward net zero in 2050.

It was also very much an honour for the chair of the meeting to be Richard Howitt, the CEO of IIRC. Richard shed light on the work that he and his IIRC colleagues have been doing to develop standards and to align these to simplify ESG reporting (reducing the letters in the alphabet soup). These standards will clearly facilitate not only more participation, but will remove barriers to entry for those businesses that do not have the time to meet multiple standards and, I would assume, free up time for established “reporters” to dive deeper into the core areas that provide the biggest opportunity in the journey to net zero.

Next up was Ashley Orgain, from the American cleaning products company Seventh Generation. Ashley’s unique way of thinking about environmental impact and taking such reporting to the next level was truly innovative – not only do Seventh Generation measure the impact of their “footprint”, they investigate the impact of everything that they touch (their “fingerprints”), ensuring that whilst they are acting in a way that befits addressing a climate crisis, they also look at their suppliers and partners to make sure that Seventh Generation’s money isn’t undoing all their good work. This strategy has meant much stricter criteria are in place for their partners such as PR and Ad agencies (who cannot promote them on one side of the ledger and promote and protect fossil fuel conglomerates on the other) and has even seen them change banks based on their incumbent bank’s investment decisions.

Finally, it was over to Sylvester Bankole, who described the progress of industry within the framework of the climate disclosure project. What was extremely encouraging was the sheer number of companies that are engaged in this programme, and on their own journey of continuous improvement. Certainly, what is also clear is that Sylvester and his team are not sitting back, they are simultaneously increasing the carbon, environmental, and ESG aspects considered and working hard to support their contributors through the process.

Food for thought

This information has given me much food for thought as to how Valpak can support customers.  As a service provider in the green space, we need to be on our toes and ensure that we continue to represent our customers by driving high-quality recycling with maximum environmental benefit through our choice of partners. And Valpak’s Consulting team must continue to inspire customers to realise the value of environmental understanding within their operations and develop that as a living force for good.

Valpak can help

Valpak has a valuable network of contacts and relationships in the public and private sectors to enable environmental reporting projects and will encourage your business to work in partnership, which means that expertise from each sector can be used to collectively produce positive social, economic, and environmental impacts.