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User Guide: Materiality Assessments
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User Guide: Materiality Assessments

This article aims to cover any and all questions around materiality assessments on our platform and how to use our Universal Materiality Module.

1. Introduction

How do you know what to report on?

Materiality assessments are a way to help your company understand what topics to consider focusing on in your ESG reporting. The process involves reviewing a list of recommended topics, selecting which ones resonate with your goals and maybe socializing this selection with a group of people to gain a consensus. These recommendations come from various sources and are heavily tied to the industry your company operates in.

Traditionally, materiality assessments are only available for the GRI and SASB frameworks and they are not cross-compatible. This means that while a materiality assessment can help you determine what to report on, you would need to select a framework first. This can be a challenge to companies new to ESG reporting, as well as adding extra work if you need to report on both.

To solve this problem, we recently introduced the Universal Materiality Module! You can now view a universal list of topics that apply to both GRI and SASB, allowing you to save your selection and re-use it as many times as needed, in either framework.

In the future, we’ll be expanding this capability to all ESG frameworks offered on our platform, so keep an eye out for updates coming soon.

2. What is a material topic?

Material topics are basically helpful labels for categories or areas of focus in ESG reporting. You can draw a path from a material topic all the way to a specific disclosure you will need to answer in your report.

In short, selecting a material topic means selecting a list of questions to answer later about that topic. Each framework has its own specific list of topics, but we recommend you engage with the universal list in the Universal Materiality Module. If you want to focus only on a specific framework, you can do that too.

In practice, imagine seeing a list of things such as Emissions, Health & Safety, Worker’s Rights and Community Investment. Selecting one of these will lead you to disclosing information regarding this area.

3. Topic Selection

We recommend you start with a universal materiality assessment. If you're interested in a framework-specific materiality assessment, scroll down to find more information.

To begin, from your homepage you can engage with your Universal Materiality Module card. You'll be taken to the screen where you can select topics:

The recommended topic list on the left is generated from multiple sources but is heavily based on what industry you have selected in your profile - which shows up in the industry drop-down here.  To browse topics across multiple industries, you can select more industries in the list to expand it. Deselecting all industries will show you every single topic - but be warned, the list can be very long. You can use the search bar to filter the list down to matching terms.

We want to keep things as simple and get you to reporting as quickly as possible. If you are going to be engaging with stakeholders to gather group opinions, ranking your topics perfectly isn't needed as you will have chances to re-rank again in the future.

Tip: Getting rankings down perfectly isn’t required – there won’t be significant differences in ranking a topic as 2nd versus 3rd in your list, but you should aim to have your ranking reflect your company’s goals and values as closely as possible

If you are happy with your ranking and want to move straight into reporting, click on 'Start Report' and you can then move onto framework selection. For more information on this, check section 5 of this guide, From Ranking to Reporting.

If you would like to engage with a group of people to socialize this ranking, see their opinions and potentially make refinements, continue onto our next section, Stakeholder Engagement.

4. Stakeholder Engagement

So you've selected a list of topics and you want to involve some more people into the conversation to see what they think. That's exactly what our Stakeholder Engagement tools are for.

Our platform allows you to create surveys that your stakeholders can use to:

  1. See your selected list
  2. Re-order the topics as they see fit
  3. Suggest any extra topics/remove any of your selected topics
  4. Provide comments and feedback

You'll be able to see the results of each of your stakeholders' selections separately, as well as charting them as a group to allow you to easily analyze results and make decisions quickly.

First, you need to have completed a topic selection, and pressed the 'Engage Stakeholders' button. Then press on 'Creatue survey' button to get started.

On the following screen, you can manually add people to the survey by filling out their details as shown. We'll later be able to use the category and internal/external values to help you group stakeholders and analyze results.

If you would rather upload a list of stakeholders and their details, press the 'Bulk upload stakeholders' button. The popup will allow you to download a spreadsheet template with the same fields shown on the page, which you can populate and then come back to this popup, upload your populated sheet and press the 'Add Stakeholders' button to quickly add in your list of people.

Once finished, proceeding to the next step will allow you to see what the e-mail invite for the survey will look like. You can customize the message, preview what it will look like, and set start and end dates for the survey. Once this is set up and you press the 'Launch Survey' button, the survey is live and stakeholders can interact with it, unless you set a start date in the future.

Your stakeholders will receive a link in the message where they can access screens very similar to the ones you used for topic selection. Here they will add, remove or reorder topics as they see fit. As they do so, you'll start seeing the results pop up on the stakeholder engagement screen in the Universal Materiality Module:

As you can see, we will chart the results of internal vs. external stakeholders in terms of topic rankings. The idea is to give you a quick glance at what each group thinks to allow you to make decisions more easily.

If you need to get more specific, you can view each individual stakeholders' rankings and comments by clicking on the 'See All' button under the All Surveys section of the screen, and then select your survey from the list (which will be marked as active):

From here clicking 'View Details' on your active survey (or any survey in the past) you'll be able to explore each individual response contained in it:

So now you're armed with the ability to review your stakeholders' ranking opinions as aggregated groups, as well as the choice to review each individually to engage further.

With this knowledge, all you need to do is edit your topic list to reflect any new insights gained through this stakeholder engagegement exercise if they are required. This also keeps a record for future reference of who was involved and how they weighed in, which can be really useful further down the line.

5. From Topics to Reports

So we've helped you pick what things are most likely to be relevant to your organization. You created a ranking and even potentially engaged with a group of people to form a consensus on their opinions regarding what you should be reporting on.

Now we need to use those outputs to shape your report. Your materiality profile has been saved, you can now proceed to start a new report from a few different places. Try going to the homepage and clicking the 'New Report' button on the far right.