Thursday December 5, 2019

Sustainability was top of everyone’s list

The Chartered Accountants Leinster Society Published Accounts Awards paid particular attention this year to firms that showed commitment to carbon impact, responsible design and diversity and inclusion, writes Arlene Harris

17th November, 2019

Whether it’s a talent competition or industry awards, when the quality of entrants is high, choosing a winner can be very difficult. And the task facing the judges at the recent Chartered Accountants Leinster Society Published Accounts Awards was no different.

With 14 different categories to judge, the choice wasn’t an easy one, but those making the final cut had strict criteria to adhere to.

While this year marks the 42nd of the annual awards ceremony, there were some new categories on the awards list and probably the most topical was the sustainability accolade which was awarded to companies which showed strength in the area of integrating a focus on sustainability into their business strategies.

Darina Eades, senior adviser on corporate responsibility for business in the community Ireland, was one of the judges in this category along with her colleague Elise McCarthy from BITCI and Rebecca Maughan, assistant professor at UCD School of Business.

Together they investigated how sustainability is integrated into the nominated companies’ strategy as well as looking at the topics which most reflect the relevant organisations’ significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

“We were interested in the sustainability context of the organisation and the challenges and opportunities presented by their particular industry sector and how the company is seeking to respond,” said Eades.

“We also wanted to see that the report reflected the positive and negative aspects of the organisation’s performance to enable a reasoned assessment of overall performance.”

The judges also took into consideration the fact that the reports were comprehensive, used quantifiable and comparable data and were clear in how they conveyed impact - in other words, were readable - and set their operations in a global context to show how each company is doing its bit regarding areas such as carbon management and climate change, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and responsible product and service design.

Kerry Group took the first place award in this category as it discussed the importance of balancing economic growth with environmental and social wellbeing - including fostering diversity, inclusion and belonging.

“We noted the tone used throughout this comprehensive report and that it focused on environment, marketplace, workplace and community in quite some detail,” said Darina Eades. “We were impressed by how the company is promoting [the value of this] as a benefit to all stakeholders.

“Kerry was also chosen for the quality of their quantitative reporting on their sustainability performance and their industry-specific sustainability context.”

The winning company also impressed the judges with information on their human rights impact and their sustainability governance structure - and showed that they are serious about stakeholder consultation while using clear, straightforward language and images throughout.

Kingspan also came out on top as its report showed clearly how it conveyed its commitment to sustainability being instilled at all levels, particularly in the manufacturing process. Judges felt that throughout their report, they presented information in a way which encourages readers to want to know more.

Clearly impressed with the new awards category and the nominated companies, Darina Eades and her colleagues would like to see this ethos across the sectors.

“Overall, it would be great to see a stronger focus on sustainability and how the commitment to same is integrated into the business strategy,” she said. “To continually reduce the impact on the environment and to maximise the positive impact on employees, customers, suppliers and the value chain and also the community, so that a diverse and inclusive workforce becomes a lived reality in all companies - alongside a continually reducing carbon footprint.

“We are keen for companies to show a commitment to decision-making which takes into account environmental, social and economic factors at all times. This is a change of perspective from looking at the traditional bottom line. A triple bottom line is urgently needed if our planet is to survive and the people on it are to thrive.”

See more at https://www.bitc.ie/csr-certification/

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