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Majority of sustainability leaders say time and cost spent on carbon reporting is delaying decarbonisation

Seven out of 10 (70 per cent) sustainability leaders believe that the time and cost spent on reporting admin has driven decarbonisation delay as resource constraints are hampering action on sustainability goals.

This is according to the findings of new research by Mitie, which surveyed 500 sustainability decision makers from UK organisations.

Over half (55 per cent) of sustainability leaders surveyed agreed that sustainability reporting requires too much admin and over a third are considering outsourcing their reporting as they think is “a waste of time”. Almost half (46 per cent) felt that their organisation spends too much time on reporting and a similar number (45 per cent) also said that too much money is spent on it.

Specifically, three in 10 (32 per cent) said they could better use these resources to develop their carbon reduction plans whereas others would spend it collaborating with others in their industry to drive forward progress to net zero (30 per cent) and a similar amount (29 per cent) would use it to invest in nature or biodiversity.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) would also look to put this resource to good use outside of decarbonisation and would instead focus on giving back to the community or strike up partnerships with charitable organisations if less time was spent on reporting.

Sustainability leaders recognised that part of the pressure on reporting is coming from sheer volume with two thirds (66 per cent) of organisations now publishing an external sustainability report that is separate to their annual report as well as reporting to external regulatory frameworks. This rises to more than four in five (83 per cent) of organisations that have more advanced strategies and have set and validated Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) emissions reduction targets, aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) now count the Board and C-suite of their organisation amongst the stakeholders most likely to scrutinise their sustainability data with nearly nine out of 10 (88 per cent) of organisations producing reports for them regularly. Two thirds (66 per cent) do this at least once every three months.

Carbon reporting software

In a bid to streamline reporting processes, four fifths (79% per cent have now invested in digital carbon reporting software. Yet the challenge of collecting data from multiple sources is still particularly laborious for over three in five (64 per cent) respondents.

Almost half (46 per cent) have developed their software in house but almost two fifths (38 per cent) said they would switch to a new software provider if it would help them to save time with and over a third (35 per cent) saying they would switch to save money.

Others said they would look elsewhere if there was a provider that could help them better prepare for upcoming legislation (27 per cent) and almost a quarter (24 per cent) would make the swap if they thought it would help them to make better decisions about their sustainability strategy, indicating appetite for expert advice and a full carbon reporting service rather than solely automation software.

Despite the intense nature of reporting, close to one fifth of respondents (17 per cent) admitted they still rely solely on manual processes when it comes to reporting including Excel spreadsheets and hard copy. The cost to invest in software was cited as the biggest barrier to its adoption.

Catherine Wheatley, Head of Data Science and Energy Services, Mitie, said: “Sustainability reporting has inadvertently become a burden for organisations. Our findings show that the time and resources dedicated to reporting are leading to a decarbonisation delay as time is spent on admin and problem solving rather than action and adding value to their organisation as intended.

“However, despite the challenges posed, it’s encouraging to see senior stakeholders engaging with reporting, recognising its pivotal role in shaping business strategy. This helps to give sustainability leads the leverage to make a case for investment in the resources they require to support seamless reporting so they can stop stalling on sustainability and focus on the all-important action towards goals.”

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