Fighting Sustainability Survey Fatigue

Tilde Herrera, an editor for GreenBiz Group, recently interviewed an employee from OneReport, a provider of online corporate social responsibility (SCR). Herrera spoke with Janice Warren, director for OneReport, about how to make your SCR job easier.


Tilde Herrera: Janice, can you give us an overview of OneReport?

Janice Warren: We launched OneReport back in 2003 and it really was in large part out of the "survey fatigue" challenge that we were hearing from corporate reporters. We were in touch with many companies who were dealing with what at that point was a real burgeoning of interest from the socially responsible investment (SRI) community and the surveys that often came with that.

So we worked with a number of multi-national companies in designing and developing OneReport and came up with basically an online reporting system that would streamline the collection, management and distribution of corporate responsibility information. That really covered the full gamut of environmental, social and governance (ESG), and really reflected the kind of information that the responsible investment community was asking of companies.

TH: How does it work?

JW: So basically, there are five main elements of what OneReport does. The first thing is we actually consolidate the data requests by these leading social investment research and ratings organizations and frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the Carbon Disclosure Project, with the idea to simplify the process.

So we find the commonalities. Companies are able to more efficiently respond and address internally those queries and have resources for thinking about what they're able to report at this point in time, what they may be able to do in a year, and really have some resources as they address that requested information.

The second piece is it's a central database for keeping company or organization information, whether it's information that might be destined for public disclosure for the research and ratings community, or simply for internal use. There's a place where that can be stored so that there is common information and consistency of information provided.

Then the third piece is the set of data management tools that are designed to facilitate the involvement of colleagues in the process. For many companies, that's a challenging piece as well -- that whole how-do-you-engage-your-colleagues, how do you find who is the right person responsible? So OneReport incorporates a process for delegating, reviewing and approving the information that will be shared externally.

Then the fourth piece is the distribution of information directly to research firms and other data users from this single system.

Then finally, there is the web publishing side. Companies are able, and we've had other nonprofits and other organizations as well, who are able to publish Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI data, as well as through our collaboration with the U.N. Global Compact, a communication on progress report that can be directly published on an organization's website.

TH: What kind of companies are using OneReport?

JW: We work with a fairly broad spectrum. Most of them tend to be -- with the exception of what we do on the Global Compact side, which includes many smaller organizations, both public, private and nonprofit -- most of our OneReport clients are in the mid- to large-cap size range. Many are Fortune 1,000 companies. We work with companies such as IBM, the Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Johnson Controls, State Street and Dell, for a few examples.

TH: What is the base cost?

JW: It varies. We have resource-only options where there's no reporting involved, which would start around $10,000. Then we have options that go into $40,000 or so a year. Then we have some no-cost and very low-cost options related to just reporting for the U.N. Global Compact's annual reporting requirement.

TH: What's the business case for OneReport? You mentioned survey fatigue.

JW: The main hope is that you can increase the efficiency of the process, so you can involve more people, lower costs and really take advantage of resource and opportunity cost savings. Some companies find they're able to use consultants in a different, more effective way or perhaps do more themselves than they could otherwise, but certainly helping to make staff and external resources used more efficiently is one of the biggest objectives and justification for using OneReport.

Then on the resource planning side, we deal with a whole range of experience in the companies and in the people that work with OneReport. Some are completely new to the reporting arena -- the whole vocabulary is new. So we build in a lot of resources to make it possible for someone to get up to speed internally and be really effective in their roles.

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Source: GreenBiz