By Andrea Pradilla, Director of GRI Hispanic America
“We Don’t Talk about Bruno”, a song from the soundtrack of the new Disney movie Encanto, is currently riding high at number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Encanto tells the story of the Madrigals, a Latino family with super powers, where it is forbidden to talk about the mysterious Uncle Bruno. Bruno has catastrophic visions about what is, at first glance, a perfect and powerful family. As this is something no one wants to hear, Bruno isolates himself and the family continues their life until… well, I don’t want to provide any spoilers. Watch the movie or listen to the song — you won’t regret it!
You may find it surprising, but for me the theme of this movie has strong parallels with sustainability reporting. If companies are to effectively reflect on and take accountability for their impacts on people and planet, they need to be prepared to accept and talk about the whole spectrum of their impacts, the good and the bad.
Like the Madrigal family, many organizations focus mostly on the positives, those achievements that are much easier to discuss. Negatives tend to be minimized or ignored because, as the Madrigals would say, “No se Habla de Bruno”.
While difficult, reporting on negative impacts — ‘talking about Bruno’ — is a crucial step in order to present an accurate overview of the management of an organization, and to demonstrate how sustainable practices are being integrated. A balanced sustainability report, as supported by the GRI Standards, reflects a solid relationship process with stakeholders and a deep understanding of the impacts that the company generates. It is also a commitment to ethics and coherence.
Some specific recommendations to ensure you ‘talk about Bruno’ in your 2022 sustainability reports — with balanced disclosure that fully reflect impacts — include:
Carefully consider the design and language used
Present information in a easy to follow and transparent way, which allows users to clearly track the positive and negative inter-annual impacts trends of the company.
Separate opinions from facts
Clearly distinguish between evidenced facts and stats, and where the organization interprets and describes them.
What you say is as important as what you don’t say
Be careful not to omit relevant information, particularly challenging insights into negative impacts.
Tell the good and the bad
Do not overemphasize only positive news and impacts. To be credible and believable, stakeholders are looking for balanced reporting.
Apply ethics to reporting
Ensure that you avoid presenting information in a way that could inappropriately influence the conclusions or assessments of report users.
‘Talking about Bruno’ is important because transparency builds confidence in decision makers. Stakeholders know that neither companies nor people are perfect, so they don’t expect only positive impacts. Investors, employees, clients and civil society want to understand what the organization’s impacts are, how they are being assessed, what the plans are to mitigate them, and how knowledge of these impacts are being used in business strategy.
As the Madrigals discovered, facing up to your shortcomings is challenging but it can make you stronger. So, make sure your 2022 sustainability report is a balanced one, with honesty and openness about all impacts. Not only will it help you build trust with your stakeholders, it can also signpost the way towards a more sustainable and successful future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Pradilla is Director of the Global Reporting Initiative’s regional office for Hispanic America, based in Bogota, with responsibility for promoting sustainability reporting throughout the region by engaging with companies, capital markets and other stakeholders. Prior to joining GRI in 2014, Andrea was head of the Colombian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism.
Earlier in her career, Andrea worked in international development for organizations based in Washington DC. She has a MSc in Foreign Service from Georgetown University (USA) and a Degree in Law from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Colombia). She serves on the boards of various non-profits and is an Adjunct Professor of Corporate Sustainability, CESA Business School (Colombia).