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Materiality Scan: the foundation for a successful sustainability strategy

Many organizations contribute to a more sustainable world and take accountability for their efforts. "The way in which they report their impacts can be clearer and more transparent," says Bram Ueffing, Lead Developer Online Tools at Schuttelaar & Partners. "For this purpose, we have developed the Materiality Scan”.

The renewed Materiality Scan enables organisations to make well-founded assessments of subjects that really matter. The step-wise approach, in which stakeholders assess and prioritize issues produces reliable results.

Standardized approach

Conducting a materiality analysis helps organisations identify the subjects that have the greatest impact. This analysis combines the vision of the internal organisation with that of external stakeholders, and presents the results in a matrix. The most essential topics are shown in the top right quadrant.

"Our approach is based on years of experience with stakeholder consultation in various sectors. The result is transparent and reliable. This makes it easier to compare the input from stakeholders, different branches and organizations among themselves," says Ueffing.

Many different interpretations of the scales

Ueffing saw many differences between how organisations present the results, and often a lack of substantiation for the results.  "We have researched various materiality analyses and had to conclude that there is quite some diversity in the methodology. This leads to different interpretations," says Ueffing. Sometimes, the societal influence on the company is shown on the horizontal X axis, but at other times the same axis may display the influence of the company or the (possible) importance of the company. "The Y-axis, which represents the score of the external parties involved, displays a variety of uses as well. Sometimes it shows what is important to stakeholders and then again influence on or due to stakeholders. ”This is the why Schuttelaar & Partners has developed a clear and transparent approach.

Meaningful scale

Many materiality analyses ask respondents to indicate the importance of themes on a scale of 1 to 10. Doing this for 20 themes is too much , increasing the risk of bias, according to Ueffing. "Our Materiality Scan uses a meaningful scale to rank  issues. Participants have 3 options per theme: less important, important and very important. Respondent arethen given the opportunity to validate the values entered and can choose a maximum of 3 topics that are essential".

Discussion points

The results appear in a matrix that shows at a glance what external stakeholders find important (Y-axis) and what the organisation itself finds important (X-axis). "The system also indicates where the discussion points are," says Ueffing. "For example, it notifies you when the average score deviates too much from the most common choice. Discussing this with stakeholders provides opportunities to identify what is actually material and what isn’t. ”

Want to know more?

For more information please contact Bram Ueffing