Securing a corporate partnership can be tricky, but understanding the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting framework will give our fellow social startup founders a headstart. In this blog, we will discuss how social startup leaders can obtain information from corporates’ ESG reports to plan your corporate engagement strategy.
Understanding ESG Reporting Frameworks
According to Sustainable Value Investors, common ESG reporting frameworks include:
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the most commonly used framework. Most stock markets in the world, including the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx), adopt GRI to ensure transparency and responsibility. Among the frameworks, only GRI and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) are catered for stakeholders, whereas other frameworks focus on investors.
It’s worth noting that, as much as ESG reporting frameworks aim to bring together a company’s sustainability and financial information -, these frameworks only provide corporates with the minimum disclosure requirements. Differences in key indicators, metrics and data usage, qualitative judgement and other factors can affect the quality of the corporate’s ESG performance. It is up to individual corporates’ discretion to make its sustainability report useful for stakeholders.
Where to look before reaching out for a corporate partnership?
From our blog “Social Impact 101: How well do you know CSR, ESG, and CSV”, you may already know the difference between ESG and CSR. CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, is about holding companies accountable qualitatively; ESG is about collecting data and measuring impact quantitatively with metrics that matter to stakeholders. Given the similar nature, a lot of companies publish both CSR and ESG performance in one single sustainability report.
Take MTR’s sustainability report 2020 as an example.
P7 CSR disclosure regarding staff volunteering
P16 SDGs commitment (Goal #8, #9 and #11)
P17 Materiality issues relating to SDGs
P18 ESG reporting using GRI framework
P50-55 Inclusion and Our Human Capital
P56-63 Advancing with Our Community
As you can see, different corporations structure their reports differently, and information regarding social impact may be scattered.
We suggest that you explore possible corporate partners by studying their 1) stakeholder engagement policy, 2) materiality assessment and 3) commitments to specific initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You may also want to refer to specific sections regarding the companies’ actions and targets of a specific department that is relevant to your cause, e.g. Human Capital may be relevant to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Pay attention to the companies’ priorities. They may be interested or even committed to several causes, but not all are allocated the same resources. Refer to their timeline and milestones to examine whether they are the right partners for your social startup.
Successful engagement with corporates requires social startups to understand the culture, CSR objectives, and priorities of the potential partners. CSR and sustainability reports can help you choose the most suitable corporate partners. Tailor a proposal only for the suitable partners, and you are one step closer to forging a successful corporate partnership!
Ready to land a corporate partnership?
Dream Impact is a driving force in building and growing Hong Kong’s impact ecosystem. As the largest network of social enterprise and impact ventures in Hong Kong, we bridge resources for social startups to accelerate growth in both business and social impact. With our experienced and passionate team, we can help you find the right partner for your social projects. Book a free 15-minute chat with us here.