ResearchQuestions+Neoma Business School

Assignment: Assessing Company Sustainability Performance & Disclosure

Background

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development it is important to track and assess the contributions of business to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project Business Contribution to the SDGs - A Student Assessment, was created to engage students in addressing this challenge through research of public documents including company sustainability reports and Communication on Progress Reports (COPs) submitted annually by UN Global Compact company participants.

Currently, companies report in PDF form, making data points difficult to compare and use for research and performance assessment. The Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Disclosure Database contains over 34,000 reports from over 9,300 companies, adding up to millions of data points – but the data are hidden in PDFs.

Thus, as part of this assignment, you will research these valuable data points, add them to WikiRate and use the data to yourselves assess company performance and disclosure.

Before beginning your data research

There are two components to this exercise:

  1. Collecting data on sets of commonly reported metrics, the “core” project, the same data that your peers from other Universities will be collecting. This will allow analysis of company performance globally.

  2. The second component is about developing your own research questions. Choose an SDG or aspect of company performance and think about what kind of data is available, what you would need to collect to assess or compare companies’ performance and what you would do with that data.

We suggest you approach the research in the order of the steps below. Start thinking about your own research, have an idea of what companies you’re interested in and what aspect you’d like to analyse. Then complete the “vetting“ and “core” projects, this will give you familiarity with how company reports are structured, what they tend to contain, and how WikiRate works. Then develop your own projects (see the example projects for inspiration) or choose some of the projects developed by other groups to participate in.

Step-by-Step

  1. Choose research topic and generate research questions. Discuss research questions and choose one or two research questions that can be answered through data collection.

    • Some example projects have been set up to answer specific research questions. These can be applied to your specific company or sector research, or you may develop your own research question to address.

    • To develop a research question, choose an SDG and consider which aspects of company performance are relevant, what tends to be reported and how this could be analysed. For inspiration, look into the SDG Compass (see the SDG Compass on WikiRate), which has mapped indicators from standards organisations like the Global Reporting Initiative (among others) to the Sustainable Development Goals. You can browse this mapping here and find guidance for selecting metrics relevant to specific SDGs.

  2. Select the companies to be researched. We suggest looking through the UN Global Compact’s database of participants here (Advanced reporters and Active reporters are more likely to report data within their CSR or COP reports). You may also use the Company Vetting project (see below) to assess whether the company report contains data viable for answering your research question.

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  3. Complete core company research. Use the Project below to conduct your research. Add your company to the Project (clicking on the edit icon to the right of companies to add new companies to the page). As you add answers to the research page, check the metrics’ methodology to make sure you are reporting the data correctly.

    Every value or data point on WikiRate must have a source. Your source may be found in the UN Global Compact Database linked above, or you can visit the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database here to search for your company’s report. Either download the report or click link to PDF report to find the correct URL. If you get stuck, watch this short video tutorial on how to add a source to WikiRate.

  4. Peer review. You should be paired or pair yourself with another student to conduct a review one another’s data research. There is a mechanism on WikiRate for double-checking metric values. This exercise may require dialogue with your partner around nuances in the data reported by a company. Sustainability tracking and measurement is nuanced and often requires some level of subjectivity to interpret companies’ reports

  5. Start a project for your group, or choose an existing project and add the companies you want to research. If you are answering a new research question, you can create a new Project frame on WikiRate and add the set of metrics and companies you’ve chosen to research. This tutorial walks you through how to create a new project. If you need any help with your project, start a conversation using the button at the bottom of the page.

  6. Conduct analysis. Analyze company reporting as indicated by your professor and course requirements. This may be a report or presentation including a data analysis and/or qualitative analysis of your work. If you would like to conduct data analysis through the WikiRate platform, the WikiRate team can support setting up calculated metrics based on the data you’ve collected and the research question you’ve developed. To solicit support, add a Conversation to your Project to discuss the research approach and what kind of calculated metric will fit. The WikiRate team will join the discussion and provide support. You can find examples of Calculated Metrics here.

About WikiRate Research Tools

Metrics. To find out more about metrics, browse the Metric page, and read about the definitions of different types of metrics on WikiRate (calculated and researched).

Sources. Add a source for research and citation see the tutorial here.

Extras. You may export data from a project or metric page for analysis off the platform.

General Guidance

Using WikiRate. For trouble-shooting and guidance on using WikiRate.

Student research FAQs. Answers to questions frequently asked by students using WikiRate for research for assignments.

WikiRate Values & Principles. Community principles are essential for wiki-type sites to function and help to develop communities of knowledge sharing.

If you have any questions about the research or there’s something you want to discuss, please start a conversation on the relevant project page. Use the “Add Conversation“ button at the bottom of a project page, or see if there’s already a similar conversation you could contribute to. The WikiRate team will be checking these spaces regularly.

Technical support. For reporting bugs.

Data research (GRI research best practices). Metric research is not always a question of finding a number and adding this value to WikiRate – different companies may calculate these numbers in different ways or vary in terms of the scope of who/what is covered. It’s helpful to have fellow researchers around to discuss the quality of data and what it actually means. Information about how a data-point was calculated, or the scope of operations it covers, is important to interpreting that value properly. Best practice on WikiRate is to always write down your methods for finding a value and the context where you found it, as a “comment” to the answer you submit (On what page number did you find the data? Is it presented with background information? Did you have to do a calculation to work out the right value?). This creates the background necessary to understand a value, and allows for a discussion around the data-point itself.

Discussion: You can use the WikiRate platform to communicate general questions or start conversations around specific topics.

For all other questions or suggestions email