The criteria and guidelines Best Belgian Sustainability Report Edition 2014

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1 The criteria and guidelines Best Belgian Sustainability Report Edition 2014 In order to progressively move to G4 guidelines as adopted in May 2013 by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and to answer the need to have more emphasis on materiality, sustainability context and supply chain, the selection criteria have been modified for this year edition. The objective is to progressively move to G4 guidelines principles in order also to let organizations time to apply this new guidelines. This year s selection criteria reflect this transition period as notably the definitions of the principles are already mainly based on G4 guidelines. The criteria have been divided into three parts: 1. Principles for defining report content (55%) 2. Principles for defining report quality (30%) 3. Overall Impression (15%) The percentage between the criteria has been changed to reflect the importance of the content principles according to GRI G4 guidelines. Report content The report content section makes up 55% of the marks and is sub-divided into five sections: 1. Profile of reporting organisation and sustainability context (including supply chain) (10%) 2. Stakeholder Inclusiveness and engagement (10%) 3. Materiality (15%) 4. Strategy and analysis (10%) 5. Governance, ethics & integrity (10%) Report quality The report quality section makes up 30% of the marks and is sub-divided into six sections: Principle 1. Balance (5%) Principle 2. Reliability (5%) Principle 3. Clarity (5%) Principle 4. Comparability (5%) Principle 5. Timeliness (5%) Principle 6. Verifiability (5%) Overall impression The overall impression section makes up 15% of the marks. The criteria can be applied to sustainability report (as a separate report, or as integrated or combined with the annual report). The report has to communicate on the activities of a Belgian legal entity or on the Belgian activities of a foreign entity. To be eligible, the report on the Belgian activities of a foreign entity must set clear sustainability objectives and provide sufficient information on the basis of certain selected criteria regarding these Belgian activities (targets, results etc.). The sections of the criteria are described in more detail below.

2 PART ONE: REPORT CONTENTS (55%) 1. Profile of reporting organisation and sustainability context (including supply chain) (10 %) This principle corresponds to the Report profile in GRI G4 minimum content requirements and is also part of the Sustainability context which is a principle on content under G4. These principles have therefore been gathered in one document. The report should present an overview of the basic information about the report and the organization, the GRI Content Index, and the approach to seeking external assurance as well as the organization s performance in the wider context of sustainability. 1.1 Overview of the basic information of the organization General profile (for example: major products and services, countries of operation, nature of ownership) Organisation context (for example: number of employees, scale of activities, net sales, total assets) Significant changes in size, structure, ownership, or products/services that have occurred during the reporting period 1.2 Overview of the basic information of the report and GRI content index: Period (such as fiscal or calendar year) for information provided Date of most recent previous report (if any) Reporting cycle (such as annual, biennial) Coverage of report (region, services, facilities, joint ventures, subsidiaries) Contact point for questions regarding the report or its contents including and web addresses GRI Content index ( in accordance option the organization has chosen. 1.3 External assurance: organization s policy and current practice with regard to seeking external assurance for the report (relationship between the organization and the assurance providers, involvement of the highest governance body or senior executive). The inclusion of a verification statement is also an important aspect of report credibility (see reliability in part 2). Issues to consider are: remit and scope, indication of site visits and site specific testing, use of verification standards and guidance literature (for example: IDW, FEE, GRI). 1.4 Sustainability context : Information on performance should be placed in context. The underlying question of sustainability reporting is how an organization contributes, or aims to contribute in the future, to the improvement or deterioration of economic, environmental and social conditions, developments, and trends at the local, regional or global level. Reporting only on trends in individual performance (or the efficiency of the organization) fails to respond to this underlying question. Reports should therefore seek to present performance in relation to broader concepts of sustainability. This involves discussing the performance of the organization in the context of the limits and demands placed on environmental or social resources at the sector, local, regional, or global level (also through the supply chain/outsourcing issues). 2/8

3 2. Stakeholder inclusiveness and engagement (10%) This principle reflects the focus on stakeholders which was less outspoken in the previous year s criteria. The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests: 2.1 Stakeholders identification: Stakeholders include those who are invested in the organization as well as those who have other relationships to the organization. Organizations should select (a list of) stakeholder groups with whom to engage. 2.2 Organization s approach to stakeholder engagement (consultation), and response to reasonable expectations and interests: Consultation includes frequency of engagement by type and by stakeholder group, and an indication of whether any of the engagement was undertaken. The reasonable expectations and interests of stakeholders should be a key reference point for many decisions in the preparation of the report. However, not all of an organization s stakeholders will use the report. This presents challenges in balancing the specific interests and expectations of stakeholders who can reasonably be expected to use the report with broader expectations of accountability to all stakeholders. The use of stakeholder feedback is also important to see whether key topics and concerns that have been raised through stakeholder engagement/consultation, has responded to by the organization, including through its reporting specifically as part of the report preparation process. 3. Materiality (15%) The report should cover aspects that: Reflect the organization s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or Substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders. Material aspects are those that reflect the organization s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or that substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders. To determine if an aspect is material, qualitative analysis, quantitative assessment and discussion are needed. Organizations are faced with a wide range of topics on which they could report. Relevant topics are those that may reasonably be considered important for reflecting the organization s economic, environmental and social impacts, or influencing the decisions of stakeholders, and, therefore, potentially merit inclusion in the report. Materiality is the threshold at which aspects become sufficiently important that they should be reported. 3/8

4 4. Strategy and analysis (10%) This principle is part of G4 minimum content requirements and gathers three previous criteria, being senior management statement, executive summary and key indicators and vision and strategy. It stands for a general strategic view of the organization s sustainability, in order to provide context for subsequent, more detailed reporting. The strategy and analysis may draw on information provided in other parts of the report, but is intended to give insight on strategic topics rather than simply summarize the contents of the report. 4.1 Statement from the most senior decision-maker of the organization (such as CEO, chair, or equivalent senior position) about the relevance of sustainability to the organization and the organization s strategy for addressing sustainability (commitment to economic and/or social and/or environmental goals by leadership). The statement should present the overall vision and strategy for the short term, medium term, and long term, particularly with regard to managing the significant economic, environmental and social impacts that the organization causes and contributes to, or the impacts that can be linked to its activities as a result of relationships with others (such as suppliers, people or organizations in local communities) or performance. The statement should include: Strategic priorities and key topics for the short and medium term with regard to sustainability, including respect for internationally recognized standards and how such standards relate to long term organizational strategy and success Broader trends (such as macroeconomic or political) affecting the organization and influencing sustainability priorities Key events, achievements, and failures during the reporting period Views on performance with respect to targets Outlook on the organization s main challenges and targets for the next year and goals for the coming 3 5 years Other items pertaining to the organization s strategic approach 4.2 Description of key impacts on sustainability and effects on stakeholders and description of the impact of sustainability trends, risks, and opportunities on the long term prospects and financial performance of the organization description of risks, and opportunities (it is a sort of executive summary). The description should include: A description of the significant economic, environmental and social impacts of the organization, and associated challenges and opportunities. This includes the effect on stakeholders rights as defined by national laws and the expectations in internationally recognized standards and norms. An explanation of the approach to prioritizing these challenges and opportunities. 4/8

5 Key conclusions about progress in addressing these topics and related performance in the reporting period. This includes an assessment of reasons for underperformance or over-performance. A description of the main processes in place to address performance and relevant changes. 5. Governance, ethics & integrity (10%) This principle is part of G4 minimum content requirements and refers notably to the criteria of prior year Policies, organisation, management systems and stakeholder relationships. The stakeholder relationships is to be addressed separately (see above point 2) as its importance is growing. The following issues should be covered in order to fulfill the principle: 5.1 Governance structure (board of directors, senior management, special staff, operating staff, committees and councils, delegation process for CSR responsible) and its composition (nomination and selection process, treatment of conflict of interest). 5.2 Role of the highest governance body in setting the organization s purpose, values (or mission statements), and strategy and goals related to economic, environmental and social impacts (development, approval and updating). 5.3 The competencies, responsibilities and performance evaluation of the highest governance body. 5.4 The role of the highest governance body in risk management (internal audits, compliance), in sustainability reporting, in evaluating economic, environmental and social performance. 5.5 Remuneration and incentives. 5.6 Description of the organization s values, principles, standards and norms (i.e. codes of conduct, codes of ethics). 5.7 Its internal and external mechanisms for seeking advice on ethical and lawful behavior. 5.8 Its internal and external mechanisms for reporting concerns about unethical or unlawful behavior and matters of integrity. 5/8

6 PART TWO: REPORT QUALITY (30%) The qualitative characteristics of reporting serve to enhance the credibility of reported data and are intended to make information as relevant as possible for stakeholders. The following six principles for defining report quality are judged: Principle 1. Balance (5%) This principle is from G4 and was not addressed as such in the previous year s criteria. The report should reflect positive and negative aspects of the organization s performance to enable a reasoned assessment of overall performance. The overall presentation of the report s content should provide an unbiased picture of the organization s performance. The report should avoid selections, omissions, or presentation formats that are reasonably likely to unduly or inappropriately influence a decision or judgment by the report reader. Principle 2. Reliability (5%) This principle was already addressed in the previous year s criteria and is now based on G4 definitions. The organization should gather, record, compile, analyze and disclose information and processes used in the preparation of a report in a way that they can be subject to examination and that establishes the quality and materiality of the information Stakeholders should have confidence that a report can be checked to establish the veracity of its contents and the extent to which it has appropriately applied Reporting Principles. Information is reliable when it is free from bias and material error. The reliability characteristic is supported by a number of other characteristics such as valid description, substance, neutrality, completeness, and prudence The inclusion of a verification statement is an important aspect of report credibility. The information and data included in a report should be supported by internal controls or documentation that could be reviewed by individuals other than those who prepared the report. Principle 3. Clarity (5%) This principle was already addressed in the previous year s criteria and is now based on G4 definitions. The organization should make information available in a manner that is understandable and accessible to stakeholders using the report. Information should be presented in a manner that is comprehensible to stakeholders who have a reasonable understanding of the organization and its activities. Stakeholder 6/8

7 engagement and feedback may be used to test clarity. Is also included in clarity the readability and lay out of the report. Principle 4. Comparability (5%) This principle was already addressed in the previous year s criteria and is now based on G4 definitions. The organization should select, compile and report information consistently. The reported information should be presented in a manner that enables stakeholders to analyze changes in the organization s performance over time, and that could support analysis relative to other organizations. Comparability is necessary for evaluating performance: to enable monitoring and benchmarking, organizations should aim for consistency in both the form and content of reporting over time. Stakeholders using the report should be able to compare information reported on economic, environmental and social performance against the organization s past performance, its objectives, and, to the degree possible, against the performance of other organizations. Principle 5. Timeliness (5%) This principle was already addressed in the previous year s criteria and is now mainly based on G4 definitions. The organization should report on a regular schedule so that information is available in time for stakeholders to make informed decisions. The usefulness of information is closely tied to whether the timing of its disclosure to stakeholders enables them to effectively integrate it into their decision-making. The timing of release refers both to the regularity of reporting as well as its proximity to the actual events described in the report. To give stakeholders prompt notice of outcomes and trends, reporters are asked to report on a regular cycle. Whatever approach is selected, reliable comparative data should be provided to enable informed comparison over time. Principle 6. Verifiability (5%) This principle is not as such in G4 but has been maintained in this year s criteria. The inclusion of a verification statement is an important aspect of report credibility. Issues to consider are: remit and scope, indication of site visits and site specific testing, use of verification standards and guidance literature (for example: IDW, FEE, GRI). 7/8

8 PART THREE : OVERALL IMPRESSION (15%) This criteria has been maintained as it has been considered as important by the organizers of the event. The extent to which the report communicates to the declared target audiences should be evaluated. Issues to consider are: layout and appearance, comprehensive navigation through report, communication and feedback mechanisms, use of internet, appropriateness of graphs, illustrations and photos, understandability, readability, accessibility and appropriate length. The relevance of the topics addressed to the stakeholders is of great importance. Prepared in May 2014 * * * 8/8

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