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Is your sustainability data transparent enough? – Three Ways to ensure transparency

Vilja Hannula

Vilja Hannula


Vastuullisuusdatan läpinäkyvyys on tärkeää

The question of reliable calculation often arises in the context of sustainability reporting. My response emphasizes the criticality of transparency. Transparency in sustainability data is key for companies to make credible and justified claims about their environmental responsibility.

The forthcoming Green Claims legislation will require companies to demonstrate even greater transparency. Too often, the visibility of vagueness in sustainability claims proves to be a shortsighted strategy on the path to sustainability. Fundamentally, the scientific validity of all data used in calculations must be ensured and made available.

Vilja Hannula

My core message is that no matter how well things are done, a lack of transparency casts doubt on the brand.

Inability to substantiate claims makes stakeholders hesitant and doubtful about what they see and hear. Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge that eventually, transparency in sustainability data will become standard practice – and at that point, deficiencies in accuracy will reveal the truth or over-optimism.

Sustainability reports must therefore withstand examination. Transparency is also required in guidelines, standards, and protocols regarding calculations. To ensure a fundamental level of quality, pay attention to at least these three principles.

1. Up-to-date information

The longer data has been unused, the less likely it is to reflect the present. This requires you to update emission factors, integrate new processes, and consider industry-specific changes in calculations. We recommend continuous and annual efforts to improve and update data.

Three years is a common deadline for sustainability data to be considered reliable.

2. Proper Documentation

For reporting transparency, comprehensive documentation for example, regarding supplier-specific or self-calculated emission factors, is critical. This applies to both primary and secondary data. Adequate documentation includes a methodology description, detailing data collection and analysis processes, and a life cycle inventory providing detailed information on the data used. This ensures transparent calculation, and results are traceable and justifiable.

As experts, we’re cautious with insufficient documentation to keep our calculations accurate. Biocode, like other third-party quality assessors, insists on high-quality, justified documentation for the values used. If not provided, we prefer conservative estimates or adjusted averages instead of relying blindly.

3. Justification of Choices

Documenting and understanding the reasons behind choices made during calculations are fundamental aspects of expertise. It’s crucial to record:

  • which emission factors have been used and why
  • what has been measured and why
  • what has been overlooked and why.

This increases transparency and ensures that reporting is not intentionally or unintentionally misleading. A clear description of calculation process boundaries and their justifications is a crucial part of reliable and responsible reporting.

When a company reports its sustainability openly, stakeholders – including customers, investors, and partners – can trust that the company takes sustainability seriously, reports it justifiably and consciously, and strives honestly to reduce its environmental impacts. Transparency shows that calculations and their scientific basis are reliable. Lack of transparency, on the other hand, breeds suspicion and opacity.

Sustainability reporting requires transparency at all levels, from data collection to analysis and reporting. In this process, it is crucial that all data used is traceable, justifiable, and properly documented.

Vilja Hannula

Vilja Hannula

COO — Sales & Customer Success
+358 40 837 8511

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