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The KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020

The KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020

Now in its 11th edition, KPMG’s Survey of Corporate Responsibility (CR) Reporting has been monitoring developments in the field of CR and sustainability reporting since 1993. For this latest report, KPMG member firm professionals analyzed the annual financial reports, corporate responsibility reports, and websites of 5,200 companies in 52 countries, making it our most extensive survey ever. It is one of the most comprehensive and authoritative pieces of research on sustainability reporting available worldwide.

This year’s survey spotlights three key areas of reporting:

  • Quantitative trends in sustainability reporting
  • Reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Reporting of climate risk and decarbonization

Key findings for Belgium include:

Corporate responsibility (CR) reporting of the 100 largest Belgian companies (Belgian N100) is catching up with the reporting levels of the largest companies globally. However, there is still much improvement needed, especially compared with the reporting rates of the largest 250 global companies (G250). The reporting rate of Belgian N100 companies rose from 62% in 2016 to 72% in 2019, compared to 77% for the N100 (up from 75% in 2016) and 96% for the G250 (up from 93% in 2016).

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) remains by far the most widely used and recognized reporting framework. Half of the top Belgian companies that report on CR state that their report has been prepared in accordance with GRI (increase of 24%). Reporting quality in Belgium can still be improved significantly, as global N100 and G250 GRI reporting rates are still considerably higher. Additionally, clearly not all of these Belgian companies are meeting the required GRI standards and disclosures, although they are still making the 'in accordance with' statement.

Belgian companies that report on CR are further lagging behind in obtaining assurance on non-financial information, as the percentage decreases compared to 2016 reporting (26% in 2019 vs. 37% in 2016), while an increase can be observed in the global N100 (49% in 2019 vs. 45% in 2016) and G250 (71% in 2019 vs. 67% in 2016). This implies that stakeholders’ demand for increased quality and robustness in Sustainability data and information is not being met by Belgian companies.

The SDGs have a strong and growing profile in sustainability reporting, with a 30% worldwide increase in companies connecting their business activity to the SDGs compared to 2016 reporting. However, this reporting is mostly unbalanced and often disconnected from business goals.

With 76% of Belgian reporting companies linking their business activities to the UN Sustainability Development goals, we are outpacing the global N100 (69%) and the G250 (72%), as was the case in the previous Survey of Corporate Responsibility in 2017. On the other hand, only a small minority (15%) of those Belgian companies clearly communicate whether their actions have both a positive and negative impact on the SDGs, which is in line with the worldwide average, but implies a risk of so-called SDG-spinning. Additionally, only 38% of the Belgian companies reporting on SDGs, disclose performance goals related to the SDGs, lagging behind the world average N100 of 56% and the G250 of 51%. As such, it’s highly important that Belgian companies increase their focus on the quality of their SDG reporting.

There is a growing acknowledgement of the financial risks associated with climate change. The number of companies that acknowledge climate change to be a risk to their business has increased significantly worldwide (+11% to 39%) and by G250 companies in particular (+8% to 56%).

Belgian companies have not yet caught up with the global N100 and G250 companies with regard to reporting on climate change as a financial risk to their business. Although an increase can be observed (30% for 2019 vs. 16% for 2016), still less than one third of the Belgian N100 companies acknowledge climate change as a business risk.  There has also been a significant increase in companies reporting on climate risks in line with TCFD recommendations. Of all Belgian companies acknowledging climate change as a business risk, 27% state that they report in accordance with the TCFD recommendations. This percentage is above the N100 globally (18%), but still significantly below the G250 (37%).

A growing number of companies are disclosing carbon reduction targets, with more than half of them linking their targets to global, regional or national carbon goals. Although global trends such as defining climate change and aligning GHG emission goals with global targets (such as the Paris Agreement) are gaining importance, Belgian companies are further lagging behind on this aspect. 60% of the Belgian N100 companies that report on CR, disclose carbon reduction targets in their reporting. An increase of 8% is observed compared to the figures reported in 2016, which is still lower than the N100 globally (+15% to 65%) and the G250 (+9% to 76%).

Nevertheless, of the Belgian companies that do report on carbon targets, 69% link these targets to global, regional or national targets, such as the Paris Agreement. In that sense, Belgian companies reporting on carbon targets are outpacing both the N100 globally as well as the G250 (both at 55%).

Although the number of Belgian companies linking their carbon reduction targets to global, regional and national levels is higher than the world average, the number of Belgian companies adopting or intending to adopt science-based targets is still significantly lower (21%) compared to the global N100 (31%). 

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