“Sustainability” does not necessarily mean “to respect the environment and the society”. Indeed, an energy company might profitably sustain itself extracting and selling fossil fuels for many years, without necessarily considering its impacts on global warming or accounting for the costs that future generations will bear.
“Sustainability” is like a “balance”: a perfect equilibrium between needed resources for the company and needed products for clients.
Now, if you want to be more social/environment-friendly you have to create value reducing the negative impact on both sides, thus you need to improve the performances of your business activities.
Therefore, what are the available tools for companies to understand their impact and to become more efficient? The most known is the sustainability report, but is it complete?
A sustainability report explains how business activities impact society and natural environment, but not how society and natural resources impacts the business and how business activities create value.
So, a sustainability report risks considering only one plate of the balance, without giving a complete overview of the company because it is organised from external stakeholders’ view.
Is there a solution to this gap? Yes.
Indeed, an integrated report is organised from the companies’ point of view. It shows how social, natural and other capitals impact company’s business activities and how they enable the company to create financial value, especially over the longer term.
Therefore, these two tools can help each other because the final objective is to understand impacts and influences on both sides of the balance and to fine tune the business activities so that the company can create even higher value reducing the negative impacts.
This article takes inspiration by: Will Integrated Reporting improve sustainability? http://integratedreporting.org/news/will-integrated-reporting-improve-sustainability/