Protecting corporate reputations
Brand, trust and reputation continue to be major drivers for companies to perform responsibly, but approaches to understanding a company’s material sustainability issues, and how they can be addressed through responsible business practices, continue to evolve.
Government policies, programs and regulations change continuously at the local, national or international levels, and they can have a direct or indirect influence over how industry sectors or individual organisations measure and disclose their environmental, social or governance (ESG) performance. There are standardised formats for preparing their disclosures that are accepted internationally, and which traditionally have been released at programmed times within the annual business cycle.
But the evolution of social media and its capacity to generate policy issues for all types of public organisations that can have immediate effects, now requires their leaders to be able to respond quickly and appropriately if they are to preserve their reputation and position in their market.
We advise corporate affairs professionals in client firms on the methods for reporting on the firms position on a complex environmental or social issue that are consistent with widely accepted international frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). This is discussed further in the “Non-financial disclosure” section of this website.
We can also carry out research into the performance of similar organisations in the firm’s industry sector to develop benchmarks for the performance criteria it nominates as being material to their position.
Integration of sustainability within an organisation entails leadership from the top as well as vertical and horizontal mechanisms to drive implementation of sustainability goals and ensure effective management of sustainability programs.
The Global Reporting Initiative and other reporting frameworks provide guidance on what constitutes good corporate governance for sustainability. Indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index include corporate governance in their assessments of companies.
The third edition of the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations requires a listed company to disclose whether it has any material exposure to economic, environmental and social sustainability risks and, if it does, how it manages or intends to manage those risks.
- The Middle Way provides advice to clients on their sustainability corporate governance frameworks, and assists clients to prepare framework components such as principles, policies, strategies and codes of conduct.
Stakeholder engagement has long been considered fundamental to development of responsible corporate policies, but the range of potential stakeholders and potential topics to be covered has grown.
Effective stakeholder engagement must now be more targeted to specific interest groups and the issues canvassed need to be focussed on what is relevant to the firm and on their specific concerns Social media has had a major impact on how consultations can and should be conducted, and on the positive side has provided new avenues for reaching and interacting with stakeholders who would have been difficult to contact.
We advise on how an organisation can best identify and characterise the different stakeholders who are relevant to their activities and interests. We then assist with the preparation of engagement strategies, and with the preparation of the content to be discussed.
Sustainable management of natural resources
Development and implementation of strategies for sustainable natural resource management not only contributes to the long-term management of scarce natural resources, but can also reduce the costs of energy, waste management, water and materials; and contribute to employee satisfaction and organisational reputation.
The Principals of the Middle Way have substantial experience in natural resource management and have worked with Federal, State and Local Governments on a wide range of issues. Our expertise includes socio-economic and financial evaluation, stakeholder engagement, planning and strategy development. We collaborate with our associates where further specialist expertise in specific areas of natural resource management is required.
The types of projects we have undertaken include
- the preparation of corporate water footprints.
- participation in the CDP Water program – Each year companies in Australia and elsewhere are invited to participate in this voluntary, international disclosure program. We assist them assemble data, analyse risks and opportunities, and respond to the CDP Water survey questionnaire.
- preparation of water and wastewater strategic business plans for regional water authorities. This included assessing future population growth trends and demand impacts; effective engagement with stakeholders; evaluation of the longer term sustainability of project options; and providing guidance on how complex issues, options and recommendations could best be communicated clearly.