19 Aug 2021

5 reasons why every company should do a Materiality Assessment

By Seismic

And why you should start right now!


In recent years, creating a sustainable business has become the norm rather than the exception.

80% of the top companies worldwide are now reporting on sustainability, including their impact and their goals.

Yet, when it comes to creating a sustainability strategy, many of the companies I come across don’t know where to start. Sustainability is a broad term that encompasses many diverse social and environmental topics.

My advice; start with a Materiality Assessment, right now!

What is a Materiality Assessment?

A Materiality Assessment is a way of identifying, assessing and prioritising what sustainability topics your stakeholders find most important, compared with the impact those topics have on your company. It’s a survey that can give you measurable outcomes like this simple matrix below.

Materiality Assessment Matrix.png

Source: C&A Global Sustainability Report

So why should your company take the time and effort to identify stakeholders, survey and engage with them?

1. Do your research

When conducting a survey with your stakeholders to understand which topics are important to them, it is essential to do your own research first. No one likes a list of 40 topics to choose from and it won’t give you the results you are looking for. You need to research what sustainability topics are being prioritised globally and within your industry. A fashion company has different battles to fight than a financial service company. By doing a Materiality Assessment, you will narrow down your company’s sustainability priorities to global and industry-specific topics.

2. Identify sustainability priorities

Despite the draw of a ‘hot’ topic globally, it may not be something your company should focus on. The results of your assessment could reveal alternative topics that are more important to your stakeholders. Finding out what is right for your audience, helps your company thrive as you will identify the issues that could have the biggest impact on your business.

3. Engaging external stakeholders

Since entering a new century, the shareholder view has changed to a stakeholder view. All stakeholders should and want to be heard. Conducting a survey with your target audiences, will give them a platform to communicate their thoughts. They will also get a better understanding of where your priorities are and will see that you are taking steps towards being a more sustainable company, providing an excellent reputation opportunity.

4. Involve your employees

A survey will give you a lot of quantitative data which provides a good overview of which topics to prioritise. However, what it doesn’t tell you is how to do this. In a recent client workshop on the Materiality Assessment, we identified a lot of insightful contextual information to help the company accelerate their sustainability efforts. One of which was educating all employees about the identified sustainability topics. The result: all employees felt engaged, motivated and ready to embed sustainability into their core business activities.

5. Get it right first time

Time and resources are always a constraint. So you want to make sure you put your time and effort in the things that actually matter. I have often seen a sustainability strategy that has been put in place and resources allocated, but then the Materiality Assessment tells them it is not in fact a priority at all. Avoiding this misstep is simple. We all want to get it right first time so starting with a Materiality Assessment is what every company should do. Now!

If you would like to know more about the Materiality Assessment, Seismic can lead you through the process, starting with stakeholder mapping.

Get in touch with our team to find out more!