Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Trip report: Sustainability management and reporting

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Last Friday, I attended the annual conference of the Bodensee Innovation Cluster for digital change (changes due to digitalization). The conference had several interesting talks and included workshops. Let me give you a quick overview of the innovation cluster, then delve into the sustainability topic which was part of the conference.

Innovation Cluster

The cluster brings together companies and interested parties from the Lake Constance region. Several digitilization topics have been identified as being of interest. They include cybersecurity and information security, the impact of artificial intelligence, sustainability (management) and life-long learning. For each of the topics there are or will be workshops running for a year.

The annual conference brings together all the parties and serves as kick-off for individual topics whereas the workshops are for the active exchange and detailed work.

Sustainability (Management and Reporting)

Wikipedia defines sustainability as the ability to exist constantly. The United Nations have defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. A special UN website on those sustainable development goals provides current news, background information and many resources. Companies have adopted those goals and started to report against them. See examples of such reports by SAP or IBM (note the domain!).

One of the problems with investments into sustainability is that usually corporate reporting and benchmarking is on financial data alone. That's why some projects were started to develop integrated reports that provide insights into and combine financial performance, social, environmental and human impact. The goal is to provide a holistic view on company performance. As an example, training employees is not seen as an expense anymore, but a gain of skills with a value. It could also have impact on society and help preserve resources. One of the projects to reform classic accounting and reporting is QuartaVista, labelled after the four views (finance, society, environment, human).


Learning about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and new, more holistic approaches to reporting was an eye-opener. It already lead to discussions with my kids, especially with the ongoing Fridays for Future activities at their school.

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