Enhancing ESG through financial reporting

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives are increasingly imperative in the corporate sector as investors, executive teams and the public at large expect more accountability and transparency from corporates regarding their sustainability footprints.

As such, financial reporting has emerged as an efficient way to support ESG imperatives and is quickly becoming the foundation upon which ESG and sustainability reporting are built. And integrating the two provides a more comprehensive snapshot of a company’s performance, risks, and opportunities, says Infinitus Reporting GM, Alwyn Pretorius.

“ESG factors have in recent years played a significant role in shaping investment decisions and corporate strategy. It makes sense then that ESG and financial reporting should work hand in hand,” he says. “Stakeholders automatically have a more holistic view of a business that includes both financial and non-financial data, to help make informed decisions, build trust, manage risk, and maintain good governance,” says Pretorius.

While financial reports provide a comprehensive overview of a company’s performance, including its revenues, expenses, profits, and cash flows, an integrated report that incorporates both financial and non-financial data gives stakeholders a more holistic understanding of a company’s value creation, risk management practices, and long-term viability. Investors are able to assess the financial implications of ESG factors and make informed investment decisions that align with their own sustainability objectives.

Integrated reports also allow management within a company to identify opportunities for sustainable growth, mitigate the effects of ESG-related risks (such as climate change, corruption, or human rights issues), and allocate resources more efficiently.

Recently instituted sustainability standards, such as the IFRS International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), and The European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), support these efforts.

These standards provide guidelines for reporting financial performance and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Employing these standards even though they are not currently mandatory in South Africa is also a signal to stakeholders that a company is dedicated to making positive contributions to the industry, the environment, and communities in need.

“Transparent and accurate financial reporting fosters trust among investors, customers, employees, and regulators,” says Pretorius. “Similarly, robust ESG and sustainability reporting demonstrate a company’s commitment to responsible business practices and stakeholder engagement. By aligning the two, companies can build credibility and enhance their reputation as responsible corporate citizens.”

In addition to improved reporting processes, the convergence of financial reporting with ESG and sustainability disclosure supports long-term value creation for companies and their stakeholders. By gauging and disclosing their ESG impacts, companies are increasingly able to pinpoint areas for improvement and monitor their progress in sustainable development efforts over time. This inevitably enables innovation and bolsters resilience.

Financial reporting serves as a cornerstone of ESG and sustainability disclosure, enhancing both business and stakeholder decision-making, creating an environment of trust and transparency, mitigating ESG-related risks, as well as creating value for industries and communities.

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