Rachel Guthrie is the head of ESG reporting and impact measurement at TD Bank Group. Rachel has overseen the annual production of TD’s corporate responsibility report since 2009, helping navigate TD’s disclosure through GRI standards and materiality assessments. Rachel’s team is also responsible for the development of TD’s social and environmental impact measurement framework and the development of ESG policies and position statements. Originally from the U.K., Rachel completed her undergraduate degree at St. Andrews University in Scotland and returned to school mid-career for a certificate in corporate responsibility from St. Michael’s College in Toronto.
Christopher P. Skroupa: Why is there increased investor interest in ESG reports?
Rachel Guthrie: Investors are aware that sustainability reports include useful information on the internal culture of companies. These reports can provide insight into employee engagement, management practices, consumer brand loyalty, a company’s impact on its community, as well as its sustainability performance. All these factors give insights into the long-term value proposition of a company, so investors can make more informed decisions.
Skroupa: How are companies reflecting their brand value through corporate reporting?
Guthrie: Companies can reflect more than just numbers in their sustainability reporting. For example, TD’s purpose “to enrich the lives of our customers, communities and colleagues” is upheld through our brand and our business practices. The purpose goes beyond language to form a foundation for our structures, strategy, decisions and relationships – all of which support our brand promise. Corporate responsibility reporting is a way to tell a comprehensive story that demonstrates the delivery of that promise alongside our traditional financial reports.
Skroupa: What are the biggest challenges in pulling together a sustainability report to tell a cohesive story?
Guthrie: I’ve managed TD’s corporate responsibility reporting for over eight years. In the past, it took a lot of work to bring together all the different metrics and initiatives around diversity, community and the environment into one story – as these areas were all managed separately. This year, we’ve launched a new corporate citizenship strategy called The Ready Commitment, which brings together all of TD’s citizenship efforts under one umbrella, streamlining both the management approach and our reporting into a more cohesive and compelling story. This approach has helped form a clear narrative and direction for our corporate responsibility report. That being said, we remain mindful of the needs and interests of the many different kinds of readers. Every new report is a learning opportunity for the next one.
Skroupa: What inputs, if any, does the board have on the report?
Guthrie: It’s important that a board has oversight on corporate responsibility performance and disclosure. Our board is regularly informed on the progress of TD’s citizenship performance; they review our corporate responsibility report with management and they have input on any significant new disclosures that are being proposed for the upcoming reporting season. We know that investors are looking for easy-to-read reports focused on tangible outcomes and digestible data, so we’ve worked to streamline our report to focus on key performance areas.
Skroupa: What are the opportunities associated with voluntary corporate reporting?
Guthrie: With so many different frameworks jockeying for position (GRI, SASB, Integrating Reporting, Multi-Capital Accounting, Reporting 3.0, SDGs) – it can be a very confusing landscape for companies just starting out. Yet with rapidly changing environmental and social challenges, sustainability reporting doesn’t have a generous time-frame to work within. This industry needs continued collaboration and standardization to reach the goal of consistent, comparable, investor-grade reporting that reflects the long-term value of companies in their social and environmental context.
Skroupa: Do you see a benefit in corporate reporting requirements?
Guthrie: There can be benefits to corporations, society and the environment. In Canada, certain portions of corporate responsibility reports are legislated as Public Accountability Statements. Financial institutions must report comparable data on specific disclosure points every year, providing regular, consistent insights to stakeholders. It will be interesting to see how this landscape evolves, both in North America and in Europe, which has its own implementation standards.