October 17, 2022

A Framework for Improving ESG Reporting in the Mobile Industry

In my previous post about a report published by GSMA on how the mobile industry is impacting the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I referenced a framework, ESG Metrics for Mobile, developed by GSMA alongside EY, a consultancy, and the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. Several readers sent comments asking for additional information about the framework, which is a first-of-its-kind mobile sector ESG reporting framework featuring ten industry-specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Featuring ten industry-specific KPIs, the framework covers a range of key material topics for the sector, from energy consumption and waste reduction to digital inclusion and data protection. The common metrics are designed to simplify and harmonize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures and complement universal reporting, by adding a crucial industry-specific lens.

A white paper authored by representatives from EY explains, "There is a critical need for more effective and consistent approaches to measuring and communicating ESG performance." Moreover, "Sustainability is one of the defining issues of our generation. Consumers, employees and regulators are increasingly vocal regarding their expectations for companies to act responsibly and to demonstrate how they create value to society."

The report also notes that "EY research has found that 90 percent of investors attach greater importance to companies' ESG performance when it comes to their investment strategy and decision making than they did before the global pandemic. Mobile operators recognize that, by placing greater focus on their ESG performance, they can build stronger relationships with stakeholders and create financial value."

The report's key findings include:
  • Mobile operators currently report on most of the industry's key topics, but not always in a consistent way
  • EY's proposed industry KPIs are designed to enhance consistency and impact
  • The mobile industry can use the proposed KPIs to measure and improve ESG performance
  • Attitudes towards ESG are shifting
  • Mobile operators are uniquely placed to accelerate progress on a range of ESG issues
  • Measuring and communicating ESG performance is critical

During the consultation process, five criteria were used to define the minimum requirements that a sector KPI should meet.
  1. Meaningful for stakeholders: The KPI will influence the assessments and decisions of external stakeholders, including investors.
  2. Decision-useful: The KPI will influence internal decision making and convey information to the mobile operator that can substantively enhance the company's ability to create value.
  3. Comparable: The KPI will enable meaningful peer-to-peer comparisons across geographies, and the definitions and calculation methods are transferable to most companies.
  4. Feasible: The KPI can be implemented by the company. It is simple and short, aligns to existing standards where possible, and uses standardized measurements. The underlying methods and approaches are robust and follow accepted approaches.
  5. Best indicator: For the given topic, the KPI represents the best indicator of the company's ability to create value in the short, medium and long term.

In reference to the image on the right presenting the mobile industry's framework, the report explains: "Taken together, the universal and industry-specific KPIs will help create less burdensome and more meaningful data collection and reporting processes, and provide greater consistency in the information disclosed about operators' ESG performance." What is more, "This will enable operators to take a proactive position in providing relevant material disclosures, and supply the tools and setting for data preparers and data users to have a more enhanced and constructive dialogue on ESG performance."

In addressing the next steps for mobile operators and other stakeholders, the report presents "three critical steps that mobile operators and their stakeholders can take to ensure that the industry ESG framework accelerates performance across the mobile industry and beyond":
  1. Align company's leadership behind the ESG KPIs. "ESG reporting should be owned by the Board, CEO and CFO — with relevant inputs from functional teams. There should be clarity around what ESG-related transformation means for corporate strategy, how investments in sustainability contribute to financial performance, and how the KPIs can help organizations measure success."
  2. Raise awareness of the framework with the investment community and other external stakeholders. "Open and ongoing conversations between operators and investors will also be a critical step to refining and validating the KPIs. Operators can help investors understand which ESG issues are most material to their organization and be able to frame ESG discussions in the context of financial performance. These dialogues should also ensure that the KPIs provide the information that investors need to make assessments of the company’s long-term value. At the same time, socializing the KPIs with policymakers, partners or customers in other industry verticals can also pave the way for better alignment on cross-sector enablement metrics in years to come."
  3. Adopt the metrics in future reporting, measure your performance and deliver improvements. "Operators can begin to test their ability to report against the KPIs and incorporating them into their ESG reporting cycles. This will generate the evidence, insights and experience needed to further refine the KPIs and draw better, more compelling links between ESG scores, stakeholder value and financial performance. At all stages, operators should ensure they take action where needed — whether that relates to improving KPIs themselves, or reorienting systems and processes to deliver more relevant and timely information that avoids duplication. Measuring sustainability performance is the critical step operators should take to move from ambition and strategy towards successful execution."

As operators adopt this new ESG framework, the metrics will provide stakeholders with a deeper understanding of the industry, and where its most material impacts and value are generated.

Do you support the proposed framework for improving ESG reporting in the mobile industry? Are there aspects of the framework that can be applied to other industries?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

No comments:

Post a Comment