Social-impact measurement

Understanding and quantifying companies’ social impact is a step further back on the development path than environmental aspects. It is still on the agenda for ambitious companies, nonetheless.

DAVISON Reporting on social impact has always been more difficult due to social factors typically being less readily measurable. Has there been much development in social-impact reporting?

TRIGONA For NBN Co, it comes down to digital inclusion. Our focus is on having a network that expands to the whole of Australia, reaching regional areas in particular, to give access to the National Broadband Network and the internet in ways these areas have not had before.

This allows people in regions to have greater access to health and educational resources, as well as improved social outcomes. We can measure this by how many people have access to broadband now versus those who did not have access before.

MUENKEL Conceptually, one of the biggest differences between the E and the S of ESG [environmental, social and governance] is that the S is based on social norms. As a society, we need to define which social norms we want to have. By contrast, environmental factors can be more driven by scientific data, which is a key difference.

Studies from the big-four auditing firms clearly show a stronger focus on the environment than on social factors, around the globe. This may be because it is perceived as the most pressing issue. For instance, the EU very recently published the first ideas on a social taxonomy, while environmental factors have been covered in Europe for some time.

We are undoubtedly a few steps behind, but social impact is measurable. The way we do this is to zoom into a micro topic and then define a target population. For example, digital inclusion. We need to ask the question: digital inclusion for whom? Is it certain low-income families or is it families that live in remote areas, or anyone else? Then we can actually come up with quantitative targets to measure against.

CASTILLO Before we released our first sustainability report – in 2020, which pertained to 2019 – our engagement with communities was front of mind. We partner with communities to deliver social and economic support as well as employment in our operational areas. We are always looking for ways better to serve the communities where we have a footprint. For example, through programmes that engage and employ an indigenous workforce to deliver construction, such as for one of our gas pipelines in the Northern Territory.

Even before we were talking about sustainability, or ESG more broadly, this was a central part of our approach. This means it is quite intuitive for us to continue channelling investment and energy toward community engagement.