Strategic Impact of Sustainability Reporting
2017 Was a significant year in our business journey due to the decision to publish a sustainability report. The decision led to an exposé of material issues within the LNL Group and its J.V partner – presenting the opportunity to address them. This was for the sake of moving beyond economic profitability, to ensure that the business held itself accountable for social responsibility and its impact on environmental care.
The LNL Group was in a J.V partnership, and over the years grew to become a significant player in vegetation management. Employing a labour force of up to 70 people, LNL prides itself as an active and sustainable participant in the fight against unemployment in South Africa. Our key objective to release a sustainability report was to allow for the measuring of our performance against industry leaders – this spoke to our long term strategy by putting ourselves against those who had set the benchmark. We found, however, that of greater reward was the management of change towards sustainability. The process was long and probing, but presented every concern for stunted growth that would eventually reveal itself in the years to come. As the founder and visionary, I had to ask myself: “what the business I had envisioned would like look 50 years from now?” The process revealed that at the rate in which the group was holistically performing, those objectives could not be achieved. It revealed that:
● Partnership values were not aligned,
● Staff had been placed in incorrect roles based on qualifications and performance,
● A need for supply chain scrutiny to ensure competitive prices and alignment of values,
● An issue with absenteeism amongst labour force existed, and
● Need for outsourcing of non-core business practices to allow for prioritization of services.
Together all of these factors allowed for the elimination of waste and management processes to be implemented. This “shedding off” empowered us to perform at competitive prices – an advantage to the immediate cost of reporting on sustainability.
Reporting is not a requirement for small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa. However, given that such entities contribute ninety-one percent of formalized businesses in the market place, it stands that the majority of companies in the economy do not disclose. This has negating effects on investments for the country as there is little measure towards the adaptation of regulations that drive us all towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a company, we have found that this step towards accountability has not only imparted a greater sense of responsibility towards our stakeholders, but has opened the doors to international trade. Our agenda had become somewhat self-prophetic in that we disclosed as a benchmark to compete against industry leaders, and in doing-so received exposure as an entity for other businesses to benchmark against us.
As an SME, reporting implies the adaptation of policies and processes to comply with international regulation. It supposes an alignment of values for investors and international trade partners – thus having its own set of rewards for first movers. It is without say that our business has significantly transformed over the past year, as a result of engaging in the scrutinizing process of publishing a sustainability report. This has allowed our business to expand into uncharted territories of facilities management whilst giving prospective clients the assurance that we are a sustainable business in our approach.