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Getting More Value from Materiality - Part 1: Five Guiding Principles

07 August 2018

Over a year after publishing the blog 5 Top Tips for World-Class Materiality, we reflect on how we've helped clients get more value out of materiality in our recent experience. Anthesis Group's Jenn Clipsham has collated her learnings in a 2-part blog series. Part 1 expands on our previous top tips with 5 additional guiding principles, and Part 2 illustrates these principles through recent client examples.

Materiality should reassure your stakeholders that you are addressing the right environmental, social and governance topics among the vast landscape of emerging issues that could impact your business from a risk or opportunity perspective. Our understanding of emerging issues such as artificial intelligence, plastic waste, climate change, and responsible supply chains continues to evolve and take shape, which makes assessment of the relevance of those topics for your business more valuable than ever.

Done well, materiality is an important foundation for strategy and also a cornerstone of a more mainstream approach to further integrate sustainability in the business. But for some companies it has become a formulaic process, with the results languishing in the sustainability report and having little impact elsewhere.

Over the last year, we have been helping a range of clients avoid this trap and get more value from materiality assessments. We’ve honed an approach to maximize traction and impact, and have distilled that approach into five guiding principles that expand on our previous top tips:

  1. Be systematic about engagement. There are endless stakeholders and many ways to reach them. Determine what stakeholder outreach approach makes sense for your business, and identify the level of stakeholder response needed to feel confident in the results.
  2. Be clear and concise with your language. Being specific and clear in stakeholder engagement questionnaires and surveys minimizes ambiguity of a question’s intention and helps to ensure consistency in stakeholder interpretation for more reliable results. 
  3. Facilitate more candid conversations. Create opportunities for anonymous stakeholder input/feedback- whether that’s from colleagues, customers or your critics online. 
  4. Visualize your assessment results to best leverage their value. The materiality matrix is not the only way to vizualise and internalize what the outcomes mean. Software such as Tableau can present the results in a way that’s interactive, intriguing and easy to understand.
  5. Collaborate with your enterprise risk and strategic planning teams. Connecting across teams allows you to align prioritization, to identify opportunities, and to ensure sustainability risks make it into the company’s mainstream management process.

Visit our blog "5 Top Tips for World-Class Materiality" to read our first round of guidance. Together, these 10 guidelines constitute a robust set of best practices.

Whether you’re initiating a refresh of your materiality assessment or conducting one for the first time, consideration of these principles will lead to a more meaningful outcome.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about how to get more value from your assessment, and please join our webinar coming in September 2018 where you can hear more from some of the companies leading the way.

Contact Jenn Clipsham (jennifer.clipsham@anthesisgroup.com) to start a conversation.

 

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