Comparability: Benchmarks and Guidelines

What makes a report comparable?

Two procedures that are used by organizations to make reports comparable are discussed in this section: benchmarks and standards. These two procedures work together.

Readers of sustainability report often ask the question:

How did the other companies in the industry perform compared to this company?

Until organizations report a performance metric, such as toxic spills, using the same protocol or guideline, the benchmark is useless. Not only must all organizations count the same items in the metric, but they must also be clear on its definition: For example, these questions arise regarding reporting of spills:

  • Were spills measured by volume, number or both?
  • If by volume, how big was the spill before including it in the spill count?
  • Which chemical were considered toxic?

Guidelines set standards that help to make benchmarks reliable, helping in comparability. XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is a global standard for exchanging business information. However, it is in the early stages of development. Eventually, information found in sustainability reports will be XBRL enabled, which will standardize information and make it easier for the reader to compare organizational performance.