Defining Issues of High Concern for our Stakeholders
Resolute Forest Products reports sustainability performance on shared priority issues, initially based on a detailed analysis the company completed in 2010 as part of our first Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) disclosure, as well as the periodic updates to that assessment that have since been conducted.
In the past, Resolute has referred to these issues as “material”, but now uses the term “shared priority issues” or “shared priorities” in order to avoid confusion with materiality in the context of financial and regulatory reporting. We will continue to apply the GRI’s definition and determination methodology for defining issues, identifying topics that reflect the company’s significant environmental, social and economic impacts, and that substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.
We monitor shared priorities on a continuous basis through regular interaction with stakeholders and periodic analysis. Shared priority issues are regularly updated and presented in our Shared Priorities Matrix, which illustrates our stakeholders' concern for each of the topics relative to its potential impact on the company.
The shared priority issues identified through this process form the basis of the information Resolute reports publicly, giving stakeholders access to data on what matters to them most. Not all the significant sustainability issues addressed by the company are shared priorities. Issues that require legal or regulatory compliance, for example, but are not viewed as priorities for external stakeholders, are still monitored and reported on within the company but are not included in our sustainability reporting.
Our identification of shared priority issues is intended to improve the understanding of our stakeholders’ objectives and information needs. To this end, we regularly conduct shared priorities assessments to identify the topics that matter most to our internal and external stakeholders. Stakeholder issues and related expectations are identified and prioritized through a series of confidential, one-on-one, in-depth surveys with individuals representing the research community, industry, government, customers, (E)NGOs, organized labor, investors, First Nations and other Aboriginal groups.
The surveys are conducted by a third party to facilitate unbiased discussions, and only aggregate, unattributed responses are shared with Resolute. Thanks to engagement with stakeholders and other interested parties at the community, regional and national levels, we have been able to gain insight into their priorities. Results are then combined with a detailed industry scan of sustainability issues and benchmarking of North American and international peer company reports. Using this research as a foundation, our corporate sustainability committee adds its own insight to determine the business impact of these concerns and, ultimately, compile a list of shared priorities.
Comprehensive updates of our shared priorities assessment were completed in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2020. During each of these exercises, we reached out to key partners and stakeholders to assess whether our sustainability strategy, public commitments and reporting practices continued to reflect their most relevant interests and needs. The 2020 survey included nine stakeholder groups: employees and retirees, customers, suppliers, First Nations and other Aboriginal groups, investors, (E)NGOs, government representatives, civil society and local community representatives, and finally company executives and board members.
As always, the survey was conducted by a third party to facilitate an unbiased process and analysis. A representative geographic participation was ensured (responses were received from Ontario, Quebec, the United States and several international locations), as well as stakeholder involvement from various Resolute operations, including head office, pulp, paper and tissue mills, woodlands operations and wood products facilities. The process evolved over four steps, as identified and described by the GRI Standards:
Step 1: Determination and prioritization of the stakeholders to be involved in the process
Step 2: Identification and prioritization of all material topics as defined through the GRI Standards and sector benchmarking
Step 3: Shared priorities survey, through qualitative online questionnaire
Step 4: Analysis of the outcomes and results, and verification of the final shared priorities list and matrix
Overall, there were not significant changes in stakeholders’ shared priorities since our last assessment. New issues with the potential to impact our business that were identified during this process include: forest management; human rights; and data security and privacy. These concerns reflect trends in sustainability, and we will integrate disclosures on these topics into our sustainability reporting, as needed. In addition, issues that ranked higher than in the past will be addressed in our monitoring and reporting, including: ethics, integrity and anti-corruption; responsible procurement using labor and social criteria; environmental compliance; and talent management of our employees.
Sector benchmarking with other peer companies verified that Resolute’s shared priorities are consistent and in line with the priorities placed by other leading companies in the North American forest products industry. Furthermore, an independent benchmarking of corporate sustainability practices that we commissioned in 2017 confirmed our progression and ranked the company to be in a strong position compared to industry peers. We plan to verify this going forward in order to ensure that we retain our position as sustainability leaders in our sectors of activity, and that we have incorporated and addressed new sustainability challenges and topics in our annual reporting.