Materiality in reporting: an action plan

Materiality in reporting: an action plan

Under the G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), organisations must have a vision of key CSR issues and related topics. They are required to consider all core and secondary topics in this process (including their interdependence). This obviously varies based on the organisation and the strategy adopted by the organisation in question. A materiality analysis can serve as an excellent tool in the CSR decision-making process.

Relevance, significance and influence
The materiality analysis can be compared to an MRI scan: it reveals the balance between the three factors relevance, significance and influence. On which CSR topics should the organisation focus, and how is this translated into operational policies with objectives and measuring points? What are an organisation’s CSR objectives?

In sustainability activities and reporting, it is of prime importance to focus on the elements which are most relevant to the organisation in question and the stakeholders concerned. Important factors besides the materiality analysis are stakeholder surveys and dialogue, as well as the organisation’s own analysis of risks and opportunities and the impact of core processes.

Use the following criteria as a guideline

  • What issues do your stakeholders feel are important?
  • What are some of the social trends that are of high priority and relevance to the company
  • Good balance between social, environmental and economic issues
  • Level of strategic importance based on a self-assessment
  • Assessed based on relevance and effect on business operations

SNS-MaterialiteitsMatrixMateriality matrix
An action plan is valuable when it comes to conducting the materiality analysis in a compact and practical way:

  • Step 1: list of issues relevant to each stakeholder category
  • Step 2: determining main stakeholder issues
  • Step 3: setting your own priorities
  • Step 4: materiality index
  • Step 5: elaboration


Text alone will no longer do in 2016; you can be certain your message won’t come across. In addition to publishing data analysis, why not use dazzling visuals in the form of dashboards, infographics, scorecards and illustrations? All these images must be coherent – be sure to use a consistent visualisation strategy.

For more information, please send an e-mail to Pieter Koenders: