The latest Corporate Knights report ‘Measuring Sustainability Disclosure – Ranking the World’s Stock Exchanges’ describes the extent to which publicly listed companies are reporting on employee turnover, energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, injury rate, payroll, waste and water.

The report covers 45 stock exchanges across the world and shows that countries with mandatory and prescriptive requirements lead on disclosure and transparency. It also shows that the only metric tracked by more than 50% of companies is payroll.

Significantly, only a minority of companies disclose performance on the environmental indicators. Even given the international policy focus and the range of tools and advice available, only 47% of the 4,469 companies included in the research, disclosed GHG emissions. Even energy performance was only disclosed by 41% of companies.

Between 2010-2014, the large companies that disclose GHGs increased by 40%, while the increases for energy, water and waste were 22%, 23% and 26% respectively. There are geographic and sector variations. Only 23% of large companies in emerging economies report on GHG emissions, compared to 55% in developed economies. Companies in the materials and telecommunications sectors were generally better at reporting, compared to the financial sector that had the lowest proportion of reporters across all of the environmental measures.

Overall, it is quite telling that only 28% of companies disclose water use and 25% disclose waste generation. These two areas are at the heart of concerns over resource security and the development of a circular economy. They both represent significant operational and strategic risks and opportunities for large companies, therefore measurement, management and disclosure should improve. The current annual reporting model (integrated or otherwise) is arguably not the best medium to drive operational and disclosure improvements. In my view, water and waste represent an ideal opportunity to adopt a data driven approach to planning resource use, maximising efficiency, enhancing reporting and meeting corporate, market and policy goals. That is why we have created Topolytics, combining mapping with data on waste, emissions and resource use to vastly improve monitoring, analysis and disclosure.

The Corporate Knights report can be accessed here: