EU director Ugo Bassi said recently that “transparency should contribute to better long-term performance, sustainable economic growth and employment.” His views are not new. There has been an increasing consensus, particularly within Governments that if businesses disclose sustainability data and get their suppliers to do the same, the world would be a better place.
However, altruism rarely sits well in boardrooms and among the strategists, yet if economic value and factors such as reduced risk are applied then perhaps there is a greater chance of success. When you throw mandatory reporting legislation into the mix – and the EU is looking to finalise its reporting directive before the end of the year – you have an increasingly powerful movement towards transparency.
As part of this vision, the World Bank Institute (WBI) has embarked on the Open Supply Chain Data project (picture left) to provide global businesses a platform for openly reporting their energy, carbon, waste and water.
Phase one of the project, which is powered by the Ecodesk supply chain sustainability platform has launched with over 3000 of the world’s most innovative businesses across 27 countries already participating. This first phase of the platform features a world heat map and charts of total energy, carbon, waste and water data which update dynamically as new companies add data. As part of its Open Private Sector campaign, the WBI will set 2016 targets for individual territories to get even more businesses reporting and using the site.
It will be a tough ask in isolation. Many businesses and regions will still need educating on the benefits of measuring and managing energy, waste and water. Pressure from customers may provide the most effective weapon on this front but it is also up to local Governments to adopt mandatory measures, especially for the larger businesses.
The EU has recognised the value of this and has set its own legislative ball in motion, while member states such as the UK and Denmark already have their own regulations in place. We have started to see some positive effects of this with increased reporting and increased interest in supply chain sustainability. The drivers have tended to be economic, with businesses citing continuity and energy saving as key reasons.
Transparency is created through open data, publishing numbers to a platform such as Open Supply Chain Data and this carries additional benefits in terms of risk management. An open transparent base of global business sustainability would drive accountability too, of both individual businesses and the countries within which they operate.
As Mr Bassi said, business transparency will drive positive change, not just in local communities and the environment but in terms of business continuity and long term profitability. The more businesses measure and manage their energy, carbon waste and water, the more they will reap the benefits. If we want global businesses to drive sustainability well into the future, while remaining profitable, data transparency is a critical pre-requisite.
February 10th, 2014