16 Nov 2022

Key trading partners beating NZ efforts in sustainability reporting

7:35 am on 16 November 2022
The left hand holds money. Right hand holding a earth There is a bokeh background. Design concept Nature or capitalism. element of the picture is decorated by NASA

New Zealand is perceived as a country that's good for the world and needs to be sharing its positive stories, a KPMG NZ partner says. Photo: 123RF

New Zealand's rate of progress in sustainability reporting is "underwhelming", according to a global report by KPMG, and is costing the country in lost opportunities.

The business consultancy ranks New Zealand 38 out of 58 countries in its latest Survey of Sustainability Reporting by the top 100 companies in the country.

While there had been some improvement in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting, the progress was comparatively less than that of key trading partners who dominated the top half of the list of reporting countries.

KPMG NZ partner Ian Proudfoot said New Zealand's performance had slipped back since 2017, when its improvement was a standout.

"The increase since our last survey in 2020 is positive, but given the scale of issues we face, and the impacts that corporate organisations have on people and the planet, our rate of progress is underwhelming."

However, New Zealand was missing out on the opportunities offered by improved reporting, he said.

"We are letting the significant opportunities that we could create from delivering world-class ESG reporting pass us by," he said.

He said the opportunities inherent in sustainability reporting included the ability to engage with people to be future employees and to attract customers and new investors.

"Because those investors want to be connected to the positive impacts they're having in society, on the environment and more broadly."

Proudfoot said the current trajectory in ESG reporting would make it harder for companies to access capital, attract world-class talent, and develop new markets.

"We are moving forward, but not fast enough to catch up with global leaders."

He said companies should not wait for new reporting regulations on climate standards, which would come into effect from next year, with implementation to follow in mid-2024.

"We need a circuit breaker now so that New Zealand organisations can start to take bigger steps forward, faster," Proudfoot said.

"It's clear that the same level of rigour we use for financial information is now necessary for non-financial information," he said, adding there were positive stories to tell.

"I think we should aspire to have reporting standards that align with how people perceive New Zealand to be. We are perceived around the world as a country that's good for the world.

"But the reality is, our reporting is not telling that story. Our reporting is telling a story of organisations that are doing the bare minimum, that are ticking the boxes to comply, as opposed to actually articulating what they aren't doing in substance, which is trying to make a difference."

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