Sustainable development refers to a process of thoughtful growth that enables societies to meet their needs today without jeopardising the viability of future generations. The global compact to grow by this principle is elaborated in 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that have been set and agreed by members of the United Nations General Assembly. These SDGs are targets for nations to meet by 2030 that tackle a broad range of development issues, such as poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urban growth and social justice.
Each goal — such as achieving food security or ensuring inclusive and equitable education — subsumes targets that must be met for the overarching goal to be realised. These targets cannot be handled by governments alone — they require the collective effort of corporate and civil society.
Indeed, businesses and corporations have an important part to play because many development ills can be directly or indirectly traced to their policies and activities (think unequal opportunities in the workplace, irresponsible disposal of waste, deforestation and like practices). For this reason, many corporate entities have begun to report more openly about their operations by way of publications called sustainability reports.
Sustainability reporting is a mechanism of account that enables companies to share information on their economic, governance, environmental and social performance in a given year, relative to the sustainable development goals and targets. Pegged to the SDGs, guidelines for such reporting ask companies to interrogate and share how their business affects their value chain, the environment and their stakeholders, both positively and negatively. It is an introspective process that forces organisations to look at the bigger picture of their business. The outcome document, a sustainability report, consequently gives an honest and holistic picture of a company’s impact in its space of operation and on the global development targets.
NGC begins sustainability reporting
Sustainability reporting is a new benchmark in global business. Business without conscience is no longer tolerated by consumers, so any company worth its salt makes every effort to ensure a fair supply chain, show sensitivity to the environment and demonstrate some measure of humanitarian spirit. Sustainability reporting allows these companies to then share their achievements and areas for improvement with the public.
Traditionally, The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC) has given account of its business performance via annual reports, which largely give a quantitative assessment of performance in a calendar year. From these reports, the public can learn how much money was earned in sales, how much was passed to government through taxation, how much the asset base of the company has grown over 12 months. Although introductory editorials from the chairman and president have given some context to the numbers and spoken to highlight developments over the reporting period, we have recognised the need to go deeper. After all, of greatest interest to the public is how our numbers translate into value added to or subtracted from society.
Our transition into sustainability reporting (as a supplement to our annual reports) is indicative of our commitment to help the people of Trinidad and Tobago truly understand the role that NGC plays in the economy and how our business qualitatively impacts all citizens. Since a sustainability report highlights both the strengths and shortcomings of the organisation, it is a ‘truth document’ that will help us build stakeholder trust. Trust is also important as NGC works toward internationalising its operations. We need to meet global benchmarks for transparency and accountability to build trust in our brand and win business.
On another level, our decision to produce sustainability reports will serve to strengthen our internal processes. In order to meet the defining criteria for these reports, as established by bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), certain data and metrics must be included. We are therefore bound to track and measure outputs that we may not have done in the past. Gaps in the data needed will spotlight where we fall short and compel us to set new targets. Year on year, we will be able to methodically track our progress through key indicators and more effectively assess our growth as a company. In short, the rigors of sustainability reporting will make us more focused and accountable as an organisation.
Of course, these reports will also underscore NGC’s contribution towards the global SDGs and help the Government of Trinidad and Tobago track its own progress towards achieving national targets in the state enterprise sector. They will ultimately help the country appreciate its connection to the whole, and shoulder its responsibility, however small, in the global development agenda.
In October 2018, NGC launched its first-ever sustainability report, covering the period January to December 2017. Our first attempt has been guided by the GRI standards and covers the core areas for baseline sustainability reporting. As we build our reporting capacity, we will move to widen our ambit of reporting to include the metrics that characterise more fulsome reports. We are also aiming to have future reports audited and professionally validated. Our inaugural publication is themed, ‘Different Notes, One Sound’, around the collaborative effort required of separate work units to deliver a solid company performance. Reported in this publication, inter alia, is information on:
1. Health and safety statistics
2. Local content statistics at project sites
3. Policies developed
4. Waste disposal practices and quantum
5. Training, development and employee turnover
6. Employment demographics
7. Community development initiatives
NGC is pleased to present this inaugural report to our stakeholders as proof of our company’s aspiration to the highest international standards in business, and our commitment to responsible, transparent operations. The publication can be electronically accessed at www.ngc.co.tt and feedback is welcome.