Selective Information

How do Companies Provide Selective Information?

  • They leave out indicators or years that show poor performance.
  • Example:

    Year 2007: Data not available

    Missing data, especially when it is for a year in the middle of a trend line, makes the reader wonder if the data were left out because the results were unfavorable to the organization. Did total water use increase considerably in the year 2007? Or are the data actually not available?

  • They report indicators using a method that can give the wrong impression, such as reporting only intensity (per unit) rather than both intensity and the total of a specific contaminant.
  • Example: Even though an organization reports that its emissions per product produced (intensity) is decreasing, the organization may not report that its total emissions might be increasing. It is the total emissions that is generally believed to be harmful to the environment.

    If you read only the first graph, you are given the impression that the company is reducing its GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions considerably…and the company is…but only by per unit of production (referred to as intensity). However, as production increases, the total amount of GHG emissions also increases, which could be causing climate change. GHG information is most useful if a company provides emissions both by intensity and total.