GDF Suez - Strengthening environmental reporting
Since 2002, France’s CAC 40 companies have been required to publish the environmental impacts of their business activities (water consumption, measurement of waste discharged into the atmosphere, water and soil, etc).
The new entity born from Gaz de France and Suez rapidly understood the challenge behind such a requirement. The environmental section of the group report was completed using the Enablon reporting platform that Suez used since 2003. Now implemented throughout the group, the Enablon solution measures the environmental impacts of the three main activities – energy production & transport, waste treatment and water treatment – in about thirty different countries.
The need : data input from all operating sites
The priority was to collect unit data regarding emissions, consumption and production at the operating site level, using the existing business software. Data-entry forms, adapted to the various types of sites and contributors profiles, were needed.
The collected data was then consolidated. This was a complex operation, as the different consumptions are not always comparable: Waste from a power station is different from that produced by a cogeneration unit. However, they must be compared, and then added together. “We translate these emissions into their equivalents – carbon for the best-known – and then apply conversion methods or ratios. These formulas govern the consolidation rules of our reporting platform,” the central administrator of the Enablon solution.
The platform is developed between September and November. Input is opened to the 220 contributors from December 1 to January 31. Local Administrators then have two weeks to validate the questionnaires. The data is then submitted to the auditors and the campaign closes.
Once a year, the auditors audit some entities to verify their data.
The choice: capitalize on the original platform
This came down to arbitration between the solutions used by each sustainability team before the merger. At the first entity, environmental reporting was based on a financial consolidation platform enhanced with a few “environmental” modules. This approach was meant to be abandoned in any event… As for the second entity, a specific solution had been developed by Enablon, and the company had recently migrated to its latest version. “A big change, which came down to moving from a customized application to a standard application to facilitate updates,” explains Environmental Advisor at Suez and the central co-administrator of the platform. In fact, all the conversion or control rules necessary for data consolidation in the original version had already been developed.
The deployment: in line with the financial structures
The Local Administrators of the solution and the managers of each of the six branches of the group must check the consistency of the data entered on the forms and validate it. After that, the data can be used in reports and indicators.
Environmental reporting covers all the group’s entities. “To determine the exact scope for each unit, we use the structure defined by the financial teams in September,”.
“Then we ask our Local Administrators to certify accuracy for each of the branches and complete the appropriate profiles from among some forty predefined profiles. In this way, the participating units only answer the questions directly relating to their activity.” Explains Environmental Coordinator with the Strategy and Sustainability Development Department.
“To each company, its indicators”
“To develop ours, we were inspired by the work of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which sets out the items that reporting should apply to, and also the GHG Protocol reference system that seeks to standardize methodologies for greenhouse gases reporting. But in spite of these frames of reference, these indicators are far from being formatted. They depend entirely on the activity of the company that produces them. We do not define carbon dioxide emissions or water consumption in the same way as L’Oréal, for instance. Different businesses have different reporting requirements. So it’s up to us to interpret the indicators that meet the GRI recommendations. Defining them is long and complex. All the group’s different branches must be committed to the task, as this is the only way that consistent and standardized data can be obtained.”
The challenges: identifying types of contributors
Drawing up the forms and their consolidation rules was a critical step, but was implemented without any particular problems. “Following the merger, our first difficulty was to identify a single reporting network. In some branches, this function was undertaken by the financial controllers.” However, they did not have the same knowledge as the actual users, who are more inclined to understand measure and thus enter the data directly linked with their profession.
The design of such a network is even more complex as the contact people vary according to the business and the size of the site. “A large power plant, for example, has a person dedicated to the environment. But in a specialist wind energy branch, our contact person also manages Hygiene, Health and Safety.”
The benefits: reporting for operating sites
With new version recently deployed, reporting and management have been extended to more contributors. They can design their own graphics, compare their consumption from one year to the next and develop their indicators.
These operations were traditionally restricted to the highest levels of management.