4 December 2015

KPMG sees holes in global corporate responsibility reports

Carbon reporting from the world's largest companies lacks consistency, making it almost impossible for stakeholders to compare one company's performance easily and accurately with another's, according to the 2015 edition of the KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting*.

Professionals at KPMG member firms reviewed the carbon information published by the world's largest 250 companies in annual financial and corporate responsibility reports. They found that although four out of five of the companies discuss carbon in these reports, the type and quality of information published varies dramatically. For example, only half the G250 (53%) state carbon reduction targets in their company reports and, of these, two thirds provide no rationale to explain why those targets were selected.

The type of emissions reported also varies considerably, KPMG said. While a majority of reporting companies report on emissions from their own operations (84%) and from purchased power (79%), only half report on emissions in their supply chains. Even fewer, less than one in ten (7%), includes information on emissions resulting from the use and disposal of their products and services.

Around half (51%) of the companies that do discuss carbon in their company reports refer readers to further detailed information in alternative sources such as the CDP database** for investors. The other half does not.

Wim Bartels, a partner with KPMG in the Netherlands and KPMG's Global Head of Sustainability Reporting & Assurance, is the lead author of KPMG's survey. He said: "All stakeholders should be able to access good quality, comparable information on a company's carbon performance quickly and easily from the company's annual financial or corporate responsibility reports. That is simply not the case today.

"There is a clear need for improvement and global reporting guidelines on carbon could help to address this problem. It should not be left to companies alone to figure this out; industry bodies, regulators, standard setters, investors and others all have a role to play."

KPMG's study follows a recent proposal to the G20 by the Financial Stability Board for a task force to develop consistent climate-related disclosures for companies to help lenders, insurers, investors and other stakeholders to understand material risks1. The Climate Standards Disclosure Board (CDSB) has also introduced a voluntary framework aimed at helping companies include investor-relevant climate information in mainstream financial reporting2.

The KPMG study includes guidelines on data, targets and communication that KPMG member firms believe companies should follow when publishing carbon information in annual financial and corporate responsibility reports.

KPMG's researchers devised a scoring methodology based on these guidelines which they used to assess the quality of reporting from each of the 250 largest companies. Key findings include:
  • One in five large companies in high carbon sectors such as mining, construction and chemicals does not report on carbon in its annual financial or corporate responsibility reports
  • European companies have a higher quality of reporting than companies elsewhere in the world
  • Companies in the transport & leisure sector produce the highest quality reporting by sector, and oil & gas companies the lowest
  • Only half the companies that report on carbon in their annual financial or corporate responsibility reports explain how cutting carbon benefits their business

The KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting includes a view of global trends in corporate responsibility (CR) reporting based on analyses of reports from 4,500 companies across 45 countries. It shows that the rate of CR reporting is now higher in Asia Pacific than it is in Europe or the Americas. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) companies in Asia Pacific report on CR.

The highest rates of CR reporting are now found in emerging economies such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa. These high rates are often driven by regulation, either from governments or stock exchanges.

The research also shows that it is now standard business practice to include CR information in the annual financial report – more than half (56%) of the 4,500 companies studied do this.


Download the report

*The KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting is now in its 9th edition and was first published in 1993. Research is carried out by professionals in KPMG member firms and is based on publicly available information published by companies in their corporate responsibility reports, annual financial reports and websites.

In the 2015 edition, the sample of the world's 250 largest companies is based on the 2014 Fortune 500 listing3. Global trends in CR reporting are based on a study of reporting from the top 100 companies by revenue in each of the 45 countries.

**The CDP database is the largest collection globally of self-reported climate change, water and forest-risk data.
1 Source: http://www.financialstabilityboard.org/wp-content/uploads/Disclosure-task-force-on-climate-related-risks.pdf Retrieved 17 November 2015
2 http://www.cdsb.net/what-we-do/reporting-frameworks/climate-change Retrieved 19 November 2015
3 http://fortune.com/global500/2014/