New HBR guide on sustainability reports is a “must read”

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This note from Alison Taylor – she’s been killing it lately! – is about this new Harvard Business Review report that is very practical:

You know how all corporate sustainability reports have three “pillars” and desperately try to convince you that all the company does is work on saving the world? Maybe that’s not a good sign of meaningful commitment. (Nor are the mandatory photos of smiling women in hard hats, for that matter 🙄).

Narrowing in on the most meaningful goals can be harder than it seems. This difficulty stems in part from pressure from stakeholders, investors, and customers to tackle any number of aspects of sustainability — even ones that aren’t central to a company’s operations. “What investors are doing is figuring out your performance on maybe 30 or 40 things so they can score you and compare you,” Taylor says. “But it is not realistic to imply that you are going to be impactful on 30 or 40 things. So there’s a massive tension between breadth and depth.”

There’s a super useful, realistic new guide to implementing corporate sustainability, out from Harvard Business Review today, with many thoughts from me and others on what it takes to implement a practical and effective program in a real company. My comments are all based on my years of experience on materiality, strategy, stakeholder engagement, governance and reporting at BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), as well as the most common questions I’m asked.

I talk a lot about where things are going, so this is a useful moment to stop and think about what good practice looks like now. My advice, in one word? FOCUS!