When we talk about sustainability reporting, we often flit between terms such as Social Report, Sustainability Report and Integrated Report, as if they were synonyms that can be used at will.
There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to these tools, which were created to measure, monitor and assess a company’s activities based on their sustainability and/or social impact.
A range of reporting frameworks can be used – and there are just as many international frameworks to base reporting on.
Though it’s certainly not a crime to use one term instead of another, it’s worth remembering that the name given to a document reflects key differences in its structure and content.
Each type of report is produced based on a specific framework, after all.
Let’s take a deep dive and try to gain a better understanding of what these three terms really mean.
A Social Report uses the GBS framework, which is named after the Gruppo di Studio per il Bilancio Sociale (Social Report Study Group).
According to the GBS, the Social Report is “a reporting, management and control tool for companies intending to adopt socially responsible behavior… It is aimed at stakeholders, who are the groups directly and indirectly involved in the activities of such companies”.
The focus is on how companies communicate with their stakeholders, identified as both consumers and local communities that are located near the company or that are influenced by the company’s activities.
A Social Report is a general report in which a company shares and publishes an overall picture of its strategies and policies, as part of a multi-stakeholder vision.
One big point in favor of this type of reporting is its structure, which is the same for anyone who wants to use the GBS standard. GBS promotes the use of a standardized report that enables stakeholders to logically compare the results of different companies, thus facilitating comparative analysis.
The Sustainability Report is undoubtedly the best-known of the three types – and it’s also probably the term most often used to refer to all forms of reporting on sustainability.
In this case, the standard framework is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which provides companies with the principles and indicators necessary to measure and report their performance across economic, social and environmental areas.
Unlike a Social Report, a Sustainability Report isn’t just limited to analyzing and reporting the socially responsible actions implemented by the company. Instead, it broadens its horizons and delves deeper into the details, focusing on the three dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environment.
Companies who adopt this style of reporting want to reveal the impact generated by their activities in each of these three areas.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have underlined the high degree of interdependence between these three areas, which were once considered to be completely separate from one another.
It’s now widely accepted that the actions undertaken by a company in one area, such as the economic dimension, can have huge consequences on other areas, such as the environment.
As a consequence, the Sustainability Report represents an excellent “holistic” tool that enables companies not only to monitor their actions and the impact they generate in each specific area, but also to assess the ways in which the three dimensions are linked, as part of an integrated approach.
The Integrated Report mainly uses the two main sustainability reporting standards. The first is the Integrated Reporting Framework, which is produced by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), a global coalition of different entities including investors, companies, NGOs and universities. The second are the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which we’ve already mentioned. The GRI’s aim is to integrate both financial and non-financial information into sustainability reporting.
An Integrated Report has a much broader perspective than the other two types of reports we’ve seen so far.
It analyzes and illustrates the way a company generates value in the short, medium and long term.
According to the innovative concept behind the report, the value of a company is closely linked to the value it can generate for its stakeholders.
An Integrated Report can provide the most exhaustive response possible to the demand for information from the market (investors or other stakeholders). It serves as a transparent, comprehensive compendium of all the data that can be used to estimate the true value of a company.
The added value of this type of reporting is that it brings together all information into one document, whereas this was previously scattered among a range of different reports.
That doesn’t mean that an Integrated Report is a jumbled mix of data obtained by merely pooling together all the other documents. As the name suggests, the purpose of an Integrated Report is to produce a document that integrates financial data and other types of information, to offer stakeholders a comprehensive, exhaustive picture of the company’s activities and impacts.
To sum up, the Social Report, the Sustainability Report and the Integrated Report are three different ways of conveying the commitments, activities and impacts of a company.
Depending on the type of report chosen, greater relevance can be given to social impacts, to the three core sustainability areas, or to value creation.
Regardless of which of the three options you go for, the situation doesn’t change for Way2Global: Financial translations are a core business for us, while sustainability is an integral part of our mission as a Benefit Corporation.
As such, we’re always delighted to translate any kind of report, assist in enhancing the reputation of your brand and work together to promote a new culture where sustainability is seen as a key driver in the mission of creating a fairer, more inclusive economic system.
With 30 years’ experience in our field and a team of project managers and translators dedicated to continued professional development, we view providing you with our sustainable, quality translations as a pleasure, a privilege and an honor.
Need to translate a Social Report, Sustainability Report or Integrated Report? Get in touch!