Getting More Value From Materiality – Part 1: Five Guiding Principles

August 7, 2018 | Insights,

In this two-part blog series, Anthesis Group’s Jenn Clipsham collates her learnings on how we’ve helped clients get more value out of materiality in our recent experience. Part 1 outlines 5 guiding principles, and Part 2 illustrates these principles through recent client examples.

Materiality should reassure your stakeholders that you are addressing the right environmental, social and governance topics among the vast landscape of emerging issues that could impact your business from a risk or opportunity perspective. Our understanding of emerging issues such as artificial intelligence, plastic waste, climate change, and responsible supply chains continue to evolve and take shape, which makes assessment of the relevance of those topics for your business more valuable than ever.

Done well, materiality is an important foundation for strategy and also a cornerstone of a more mainstream approach to further integrate sustainability in the business. But for some companies, it has become a formulaic process, with the results languishing in the sustainability report and having little impact elsewhere.

Over the last year, we have been helping a range of clients avoid this trap and get more value from materiality assessments. We’ve honed an approach to maximise traction and impact, and have distilled that approach into five guiding principles:

  1. Be systematic about engagement. There are endless stakeholders and many ways to reach them. Determine what stakeholder outreach approach makes sense for your business, and identify the level of stakeholder response needed to feel confident in the results.
  2. Be clear and concise with your language. Being specific and clear in stakeholder engagement questionnaires and surveys minimises ambiguity of a question’s intention and helps to ensure consistency in stakeholder interpretation for more reliable results.
  3. Facilitate more candid conversations. Create opportunities for anonymous stakeholder input/feedback- whether that’s from colleagues, customers or your critics online. 
  4. Visualise your assessment results to best leverage their value. The materiality matrix is not the only way to visualise and internalise what the outcomes mean. Software such as Tableau can present the results in a way that’s interactive, intriguing and easy to understand.
  5. Collaborate with your enterprise risk and strategic planning teams. Connecting across teams allows you to align prioritisation, to identify opportunities, and to ensure sustainability risks make it into the company’s mainstream management process.

 

Whether you’re initiating a refresh of your materiality assessment or conducting one for the first time, consideration of these principles will lead to a more meaningful outcome.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about how to get more value from your assessment.

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