5 Obstacles when starting to report on Sustainability

Five common errors – condensed from a decade of helping organizations to create their vision on sustainability

Daniel Koeppel Photo
In a nutshell:

#1: No Data
#2: Wrong Data
#3: Running before knowing how to walk
#4: Neither sight nor vision
#5: Procrastination or Perfection

Its September 2021.
If you can read and or know how to use a computer you have seen sufficient events that lead stakeholders to ask increasingly about an organization’s sustainability performance. They expect to be ensured that information appearing in a company’s sustainability related communication is accurate, supported by evidence (aka: not greenwashing), and tied to actions that produce results. If you’re starting on this process for the first time, or are looking to improve processes already in place, there are five common sustainability reporting obstacles to review from time to time.

No Data

The wrong data rather then no data.
Businesses spent the past decades since WWII to focus increasingly on %, $ and a pletora of data sets. (Hint: the reasons why many a Hotel GM complains on spending more time on preparing & running after reports rather than hosting guests.)
Adding different (aka: environmental) data points to above reports demands a lot of life energy or Chi or motivation or self-discipline. All of wich are somewhat intangible and or strongly related to ones or ones company definition of purpose.

Wrong Data

This is the extension of the first point “no data”.
Dear reader, last you were on vacation, think back before you made any purchase decision in your host country. You propably converted the price into the currency of your home or if you are an expat into US dollar. Easy.
Converting new, rarely used and unusual data units acros multi departemental functions invites mistakes. Mistakes that can be quickly spotted and fixed…… or not. Point in case calculating NASA’s first Mars orbiter in inches and then program it in meters. Ups! Damage: 125 Million Dollars!

Running before knowing how to walk

Bussiness leaders have been given the bad rap that they want instant (aka: next quarter) success. It’s all about demonstrated leadership!
If Ceasar would have expressed: “I perceive to be on the right way, I will observe for a while and then I make the best out of the situation!” – instead of “Veni, Vidi, Vici!” A lot would have gone differently in the past 2046 years. Something those 7174 dead Legionaires, Tribunes and Centurions probably support.
As long there is no government regulation breathing down your neck, yet. Take it slow but steady and lead from the front!

“Well, I got to share a secret with you – growth was easy, but we slandered it all.”

Neither sight nor vision

Ask: “why?”
One upmanship or keeping up with the Jones’s is hardly sufficient cause nor does it easily absorb into ones leadership.

Perfection or Procrastination

Confucius said: “the longest journey starts with a step” still a bit abstract, I believe. I like this one better. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago – the second best time was yesterday….. while still being aware that you will never sit in its shade.
Much more abstract then simply squeezing the cost in order to increase ones business profit margin, yes? Well, I got to share a secret with you – growth was easy, but we slandered it all.


• http://www.scope5.com/5-common-pitfalls-sustainability-reporting/ (accessed in 2021)
• CNN.com; 30 Sept 1999; Robin Lloyd “ Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter”
• Info on The battle of Zela (67BC)
• The authors own professional sustainability experience since 2012.

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