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How to make a materiality matrix?

People make a materiality matrix


In this guide, you'll learn how to create a materiality matrix and understand its significance. This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and practical steps to integrate materiality assessments into your sustainability reporting, such as the CSRD.

What is a materiality matrix?

A materiality matrix is a strategic tool that helps companies identify and prioritize important sustainability topics. This matrix shows both the financial impact (risks and opportunities) and the overall impact of specific sustainability themes on the business. It provides a clear overview of which topics are important both from a financial perspective and in terms of their impact on stakeholders and society.

The materiality map helps prioritize key topics by highlighting the themes which have the highest materiality. This guides strategic decision-making, ensuring the company focuses on what matters most.

It helps companies balance internal goals with external expectations. This ensures they focus on initiatives that matter most.

Example of a materiality matrix

The example below provides a practical example of a materiality matrix. This example is demonstrating how a company can align its sustainability goals with key ESG topics. In the matrix, each color represents a specific ESG topic, and the legend indicates which topic corresponds to each color.

This visual representation allows us to see how different topics are mapped, offering insights into their relative importance. It also shows their alignment with both financial and impact materiality.

Example materiality matrix

How to make a materiality matrix?

Creating a materiality matrix isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Its design depends on its specific use. In the example below, a general approach is outlined. This approach is flexible, but it suitable for CSRD compliance. However, it can also be adapted for other regulations and contexts.

Step 1: Define Business strategy and stakeholders

Creating a materiality matrix begins by defining the company’s business strategy and identifying key stakeholders. Start by compiling a comprehensive list of issues relevant to the company’s sustainability goals. This list can be informed by various sources, including sustainability reporting frameworks, past assessments, and industry insights.

Next, define key stakeholder groups and score them based on their importance and influence. This scoring helps to determine the level of engagement needed for each group. By engaging with stakeholders in prioritizing sustainability topics, the company gains valuable insights. This helps in aligning sustainability goals with overall business objectives.

Finally, consider how these issues align with key business drivers such as risk reduction, customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and employee retention. This ensures that sustainability initiatives support the company’s broader strategy.

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Step 2: Make a list of important sustainability topics

The second step in creating a materiality matrix is to make a list of important sustainability topics. This list should encompass environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. These issues are relevant to the company’s sustainability goals.

  • Environmental topics: May include issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, resource management, waste reduction, and energy efficiency. These topics reflect the company’s impact on the natural environment and its role in mitigating climate change.
  • Social topics: Cover a range of issues related to the company’s workforce and the communities in which it operates. This includes employee diversity, health and safety, human rights, and community engagement.
  • Governance topics: Relate to the company’s internal policies and practices, including ethical business conduct, transparency, board diversity, and accountability. These topics reflect how the company is managed and its commitment to ethical standards.

To compile this list, leverage information from both the company’s sustainability goals and stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder input helps identify which topics are of particular concern to them and should be prioritized. This list serves as a foundation for developing the materiality matrix. It guides the company in aligning its sustainability efforts with both internal goals and external expectations.

Making a list of stakeholders for materiality matrix

To comply with CSRD requirements, create a comprehensive CSRD longlist. This list should encompass specific sustainability ESG topics that align with the CSRD ESRS standards. The topics should cover a range of issues including environmental, social, and governance aspects from the CSRD-legislation.

By doing so, the company ensures that its sustainability reporting is both comprehensive and aligned with regulatory standards. This provides a robust framework for assessing and managing its ESG responsibilities.

Step 3: Finding Impacts, Risks, and Opportunities

The third step in creating a materiality matrix involves identifying the impacts, risks, and opportunities (IRO) associated with each sustainability topic. This step focuses on topics listed on the list you created in the previous step.

Finding impacts

Impacts represent the ways in which the company’s actions affect the environment, society, and its internal operations. These impacts are assessed through criteria such as scale, scope, recoverability, and probability. The company examines how its actions influence both immediate and broader contexts. It also considers the potential for these impacts to be mitigated or reversed.

Determining risks

Risks are evaluated in terms of their potential to negatively affect the company’s financial performance, reputation, or sustainability goals. This assessment includes the probability of such risks occurring and their scope across the organization. It also considers the availability of resources to manage them and the strength of business relationships that might mitigate them.

Finding opportunities

Opportunities relate to areas where the company can improve its sustainability performance and business outcomes. This assessment considers the scope of financial impact across the organization and the availability of natural, social, and economic resources. It also evaluates the strength and significance of business relationships and the probability of potential financial impacts.

By identifying and compiling a detailed list of these IROs, the company gains a comprehensive understanding of how each ESG topic influences its strategy and operations.

The previous step lays the groundwork for scoring these IROs. By scoring each IRO, you transform your text into quantitative data, which is essential for creating a materiality map. This provides a clear framework for prioritizing sustainability topics that align with both the company’s goals and CSRD standards.

Finding IRO's for making a materiality matrix

Applications of the materiality matrix

The materiality matrix is a critical tool in sustainability reporting, serving various frameworks and standards. Below, you can read about its role across CSRD, GRI, SASB, and CSR initiatives. This part is also explaining why it is important for aligning reporting with regulatory standards.

Materiality matrix for CSRD

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is an EU regulation that mandates companies to report on their ESG performance. This directive enhances transparency and comparability for stakeholders and investors.

Since the CSRD came into effect, the materiality matrix has become an important tool for companies. This regulation requires firms to conduct a materiality assessment, which forms the basis for the matrix. The double materiality assessment is mandatory for CSRD, making the matrix a valuable tool for companies.

Materiality matrix for GRI

The GRI offers standardized guidelines that cover a range of topics, from environmental impact and labor practices to societal contributions and governance. By following these guidelines, companies can enhance the transparency and comparability of their sustainability reports.

The materiality matrix is crucial for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). It helps identify sustainability topics that are significant for a company’s stakeholders. This allows businesses to focus on areas that matter most to their audiences.

Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

SASB stands for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides industry-specific standards for companies to disclose material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information.

SASB standards are designed to help businesses identify, manage, and report on sustainability issues that are likely to affect their financial performance. The standards cover a range of industries and help ensure that companies provide consistent, comparable, and reliable ESG data. This enables investors to make informed decisions.

The materiality matrix is crucial for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). It highlights sustainability issues that significantly impact a company’s financial performance. This matrix enables companies to focus on material ESG factors relevant to their industry.

European flag with sky

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The CSR is also known as the Corporate Social Responsibility. It refers to the practices and policies undertaken by businesses to have a positive impact on society. This includes various activities and initiatives aimed at promoting ethical conduct, sustainability, and social good.

The matrix is also essential for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It identifies key sustainability topics that are relevant to a company’s operations and stakeholders. This helps businesses to focus their CSR efforts on impactful areas.

The matrix ensures that CSR initiatives are aligned with both business goals and societal needs. It enhances a company’s social license to operate, building trust with customers, employees, and communities.

Tips for making a materiality matrix

Creating a materiality matrix is a nuanced process that requires careful consideration of both business objectives and stakeholder expectations. This chapter provides four key tips to help streamline the process, ensuring comprehensive coverage of key issues.

Use software tools

Leverage software tools specifically designed for creating materiality matrices. These tools can simplify the process of collecting, sorting, and analyzing stakeholder input. They offer functionalities like automated ranking of issues, graphical generation of the matrix, and dynamic updates. This allows for real-time modifications.

Software solutions can also integrate with other organizational systems. This provides a comprehensive view of how issues impact various aspects of the business. Examples of such tools include ESG-focused platforms, CSRD tools and data visualization software.

Collaborate with a multidisciplinary team

Engage a multidisciplinary team from various departments, such as finance, marketing, sustainability, and operations. This diverse team provides comprehensive insights into how issues impact different areas of the business.

Collaboration ensures the matrix accurately reflects both business objectives and stakeholder concerns. It also considers the multifaceted nature of issues across different domains. A multidisciplinary approach helps ensure a balanced and accurate matrix that supports effective decision-making.

People working together

Visualize effectively

The materiality matrix should be designed as a two-dimensional graph. One axis represents the importance to the business, while the other shows the significance to stakeholders. Clearly label each axis and use different shapes, colors, or sizes to categorize issues.

Consider adding a legend or labels directly on the matrix for easy interpretation. This clear visualization helps stakeholders and decision-makers understand which issues to prioritize. It ensures that strategies align with both business goals and stakeholder expectations.

Review and update regularly

A materiality matrix is not a static document. Regularly review and update it to reflect changing business landscapes, stakeholder needs, and global trends. Conduct periodic stakeholder consultations to identify shifts in priorities and re-evaluate the impact of key issues on your organization.

This iterative process ensures the matrix remains relevant. It informs decision-making, strategic planning, and reporting. This keeps the organization in tune with evolving priorities and stakeholder interests.

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