Where – and how – to start your ESG journey
As head of ESG reporting and disclosure at TD for more than a decade, I’ve had a ring-side seat to witness the evolution and meteoric rise of ESG reporting. I’d like to share some guidance for reporting managers and IR practitioners who are just setting out on their own ESG journey.
1. Less is more
We lived through the phase of ‘kitchen-sink reporting’ in the 2010s, where longer was better and reports were encyclopedic and meandering. Lessons learned! A focused, crisp ESG narrative with performance metrics and targets is a joy to behold for any reader.
The foundation of a good ESG report is engagement with key stakeholders to identify the topics that are significant for your organization, which then drives your reporting content. Don’t worry if you’re on a budget: ESG materiality assessments needn’t be a costly venture, led by external consultants. They can be done in-house, with low-tech tools. It is far better to issue substantive reporting on five topics that are meaningful for your stakeholders than to publish cursory reporting on 25 topics.
2. Know your audience
A report is also more effective when it doesn’t try to be all things to all people. In 2019 we split our reporting into an ESG report and a corporate citizenship report. Both narratives play a key role in updating stakeholders on progress: the ESG report is targeted to an investor audience and focuses on material topics and performance metrics, whereas the corporate citizenship report engages a broader range of readers through stories and testimonials about the bank’s corporate citizenship activities.
3. It takes a bigger village
Although sustainability reporting has always relied upon good co-operation with colleagues to collect and publish the data, you should now factor this by 100. At TD, ESG is increasingly embedded in everything we do, and that means the narrative can no longer be housed in one report. It is now reflected in all the bank’s publications, including the proxy circular, the annual report and our IR materials.
This integrated approach requires a higher degree of internal collaboration – with the corporate secretary, investor relations, legal, risk and experts across our lines of business – to ensure we’re capturing and reporting on the full breadth of our ESG activities. In 2020 TD launched an ESG Centre of Expertise to facilitate the embedding of ESG knowledge and expertise across the enterprise.
4. The best is yet to come
With a groundswell of influential global voices calling for the harmonization of ESG reporting, it’s clear the next five years will be transformative. There is a keen sense of urgency to land on a consolidated sustainability reporting framework that will provide consistent, comparable, decision-useful data to inform the path ahead. I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next.
For more information on TD’s ESG reporting and strategic approach, please see:
About TD Bank Group
TD Bank Group offers a full range of financial products and services to more than 26 mn customers worldwide through three key business lines: Canadian retail, US retail and wholesale banking. TD also ranks among the world’s leading online financial services firms, with more than 14 mn active online and mobile customers. As a winner at the IR Magazine Awards – Canada 2021 in the categories for best ESG reporting and best in sector (financials), TD’s distinctive IR program continues to build upon the bank’s three strategic pillars: proven business model, purpose-driven and forward-focused.