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Section 4

Systematic Techniques to Improve your EPR

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Section 4 Systematic Techniques to Improve your EPR

How can I improve the quality of my EPR?

Experienced reporters may be looking for methods to systematically evaluate their EPRs, on its own or against EPRs produced in previous years, or even against EPRs produced by others, and to identify areas for future improvement. A number of systematic methods could be employed, including: benchmarking, independent verification, third party opinion statement, and stakeholder consultation.


Benchmarking systematically identifies the strengths and weaknesses of an EPR based on a selected set of environmental reporting criteria. An EPR could be benchmarked against a number of different sets of criteria; and a number of different EPRs could be benchmarked together against the same set of criteria and then compared against each other. Benchmarking could be done by a third party to ensure unbiased results. Benchmarking is often done along with independent verification, as this approach allows efficient use of the third party's knowledge, expertise and time.

EPD's A Benchmark for Environmental Performance Reporting (hereby referred to as the EPR Benchmark) provides a set of useful criteria for environmental reporting, which is adopted in spreadsheet format and made available through the Self-Scoring Template page of this Cyber Helpdesk. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the world-recognized international organization championing environmental, social and sustainability reporting, has published a set of sustainability reporting criteria which is available through its website.

Q19 - "Sustainability" has been increasingly mentioned on the environmental scene in recent years. What could I do in this respect beyond environmental reporting?

Tip #8 - Learn from EPRs produced by comparable organizations, either local or overseas.
Tip #9 - Improve the quality of your EPR by benchmarking, and assure its credibility by independent verification.
Tip #10 - Register with international reporting organizations to receive their free monthly updates on sustainability and environmental reporting and relevant issues.

Independent Verification

Verification is a process conducted by an independent, third party that validates the reported claims and data by systematically sampling and checking information in the report and supporting data collection systems, and interviewing management and technical staff. The verification process also involves assessing the quality of the EPR, particularly in terms of appropriateness of the report's scope, comprehensiveness and relevance of the issues covered, openness in disclosing information, addressing controversial issues and maintaining stakeholder dialogue, effectiveness in performance measurement, assessment and improvement, as well as vision and commitment of the reporting organization. The outcome of the verification thus includes comments on the accuracy, comprehensiveness and relevance of the report and its supporting information collection system(s)/mechanism(s), and recommendations for future improvements based on the results.

The AA1000 Assurance Standard prepared by AccountAbility provides guidance on how to implement an independent, credible and systematic verification process. By international reporting best practices, verification should be conducted to attest the credibility of an EPR, and it must be conducted by an independent, third party that was not involved in the preparation of report to retain the trustworthiness and integrity of the exercise itself. A verification statement, sometimes called validation statement, is produced at the end of the exercise and is included at the end of the EPR. A number of government EPRs have been verified, including those of EPD, Architectural Services Department, Civil Engineering Department, Drainage Services Department, and the Housing Authority. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the most accepted international best reporting practices, highly recommends adopting verification.

Q16 - Should my department/bureau's report be independently verified and if so by whom?

Tip #9 - Improve the quality of your EPR by benchmarking, and assure its credibility by independent verification.

Third Party Opinion Statement

Opinions about the EPR from renowned experts in the environmental and sustainability fields could be obtained and compiled into a statement, namely an opinion statement, for inclusion in the EPR. This process is usually conducted once the EPR has been finalized but prior to its public release. The difference between an opinion statement and a verification statement is that for the former, experts in the field are invited to provide their opinions about the EPR, whilst for the latter professionals are employed to validate and check the accuracy of reported claims and data. Some reports may include both a verification and an opinion statement. Third party opinion statement is useful but does not replace the usefulness of verification. By international best reporting practices, verification is highly recommended for ensuring credibility.

Stakeholder Consultation

A key challenge in the reporting process is effectively communicating information to stakeholders and engaging them in a dialogue. By conducting a target audience assessment, a reporter can identify the issues of interest and concern to their stakeholders/report readers and address these issues in the report. This can be done through roundtable discussions, workshops and interviews with stakeholders. If feedback from previous reports has been received it is important to recognize and respond to this in the report, thereby demonstrating your commitment to engaging your stakeholders and encouraging further dialogue. The inclusion of comments from stakeholders or report readers in your report is also a useful way to demonstrate your openness to comments and the effectiveness of the report as a communication tool.

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