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Corporate reporting

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Corporate sustainability reporting has evolved rapidly since the first environmental reports appeared in the late 1980s. Many of the early efforts were health and safety reports modified to account for impacts on the environment.

In the early days there were no accepted standards for corporate reports, so there were wide variations in the content and format of the reports produced.

Nowadays, environmental issues have been joined on the agenda by social considerations, and the reporting process has been broadened into an audit of what is loosely termed 'corporate responsibility'.

Companies committed to corporate reporting are increasingly following guidelines drawn up under the Global Reporting Initiative, launched in 1997 by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

In November 2000 'The Global Reporters' was published, a survey of 50 corporate reports from around the world, by UK-based consultancy SustainAbility. This identifies eight 'hot topics' common to the reports, and proposes ten improvements for future reports.

A recent review was undertaken of corporate reporting practices in Canada, based on a sample of 20 company reports. The 'Sustainability Reporting Program' suggests three basic approaches, or 'templates', for reports to follow, namely (i) creating a positive impression; (ii) the business case for sustainable development; and (iii) standardized reporting.

'Stepping Forward' was published in November 2001, the first in-depth examination of sustainability reporting practices in Canada.

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