Unlocking Sustainable Value
Q&A with Oliver Bussler, director of sustainable development, on TransAlta’s latest Report on Sustainability.
Sustainability is more than a buzzword — it’s a culture at TransAlta. We were the first among our peers to produce a Report on Sustainability, and a few weeks ago, we released our 21st report. We are very proud of this achievement. Oliver Bussler, TransAlta’s director of sustainable development, looks at the importance of tracking TransAlta’s sustainability record.
Why produce a report focused on sustainability?
We started reporting on sustainability more than two decades ago to respond to stakeholders who wanted disclosure beyond the balance sheet. Reporting enables us to narrow in on issues of key concern to stakeholders, good and bad, and continue to earn their trust. Ultimately, we want to strengthen our relationships with our stakeholders and maintain our social license to operate. Evaluating our accomplishments and challenges affords us the opportunity to set strategies and targets for continuous improvement.
What does “unlocking sustainable value” mean?
People often view the concept of sustainability as something only associated with the environment. Yes, this is part of equation, but sustainability also involves economic and social aspects as well. Our Report on Sustainability is increasingly valuable to our many stakeholders who are not only interested in the financial performance we deliver, but are also interested in the way we conduct our business. The environmental and social dimensions of our operations are important indicators of TransAlta’s values and the commitment we have to applying innovation and vision to our future growth.
What are the top highlights of this report?
It is tough to narrow down as there are many — some of which you will be reading about on our website in coming weeks.
This year’s report underscores TransAlta’s commitment to reduce emissions from coal-fired facilities. TransAlta’s target, set in 2013, was to decrease coal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2021 and 55 per cent by 2030. To the end of 2014, TransAlta has reduced its coal-related GHG emissions 12 per cent from 2005 levels.
Another highlight we’re really proud of concerns our commitment to safety, as the company in 2014 achieved the lowest injury frequency rate in its history. This reflects an exceptional effort from employees and contractors who fulfilled their on-the-job responsibilities in a safe, carefully planned and thoughtful manner. There are more highlights in our news release and on our sustainability website.
You’ve written the report, now what do you do with the information?
More reporting! Throughout the year, we respond to various stakeholder requests. Investors increasingly wish to review environmental and social key performance indicators in order to gain a holistic view of the short, medium and long-term value of TransAlta. One of the reporting programs we respond to is the Carbon Disclosure Project: Climate Change Survey. We report on our emissions performance, our emissions strategy and the risk and opportunity associated with carbon and TransAlta in the future.
Governments are also interested in our report, requesting information in accordance with their legislated reporting programs. For example, the National Pollutant Release Inventory, which tracks all air emissions in Canada and the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program tracks all facility GHG emissions.
Where do you get your sustainability targets?
Our sustainability targets are collected bottom up from the business units in our company.
Our reporting is iterative. We continuously build upon existing stories. It seems every part of our business has a good sustainability story to tell, even when they don’t recognize their activities as such.
Even before the report is published, we’re tracking targets, reviewing new indicators, and gathering data for next year. We strive to improve our reporting year over year and we always welcome feedback and encourage readers to fill out our sustainability survey. We’ve also committed to producing our first integrated report; combining our financial and sustainability reports into one all-inclusive document. Joining only a few other companies in Canada who are currently doing this, it’s a big step forward in our reporting and we’re excited to take on this challenge this year. Stay tuned.