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They can be complex, time-consuming and costly to produce, but sustainability reports that highlight an organization's social, environmental, governance and economic priorities, programs and performance pay off in myriad ways.

"You're trying to build trust and you're trying to build your reputation," says Julie Desjardins, director of reporting and capital markets, research guidance and support for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). "Environmental and social issues tend to be keeping CEOs awake at night. They can have significant consequences for an organization."

CPA Canada has produced a series of free materials that assist in sustainability reporting and act as a primer for first-timers who want to get up and running. "Sustainability reporting has become an extension of accountability for responsible companies," Ms. Desjardins explains. "It allows the entity to demonstrate that it understands and responds to its broad range of risks and opportunities."

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Employees, customers and investors are increasingly interested in a company's sustainability initiatives, she notes, making the report a "valuable management tool" that can help recruit and retain staff as well as attract business and investment.  "A sustainable business appeals to employees and customers, strengthens relationships with suppliers and positions the organization's brand with good corporate citizenship."

Ms. Desjardins suggests that organizations large and small – including not-for-profit agencies, private companies and governments – should do sustainability reporting, perhaps starting with a framework such as the Global Reporting Initiative. "Organizations that only use a checklist approach are missing the point," she says, adding that you have to communicate how your organization creates value and how environmental, social and governance issues align with strategic priorities.

"This is leading-edge stuff. It can be confusing, because there's so much happening in this area; it's easy to be overwhelmed," Ms. Desjardins adds. CPA Canada has organized a free webinar on June 25 to provide information about the evolving sustainability reporting landscape.Desjardins adds. CPA Canada has organized a free webinar on June 25 to provide information about the evolving sustainability reporting landscape.

This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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