Materiality is a concept adapted from financial reporting for use in the sustainability and corporate responsibility context. Formal definitions abound, but at heart, material issues are those that are most important to a company and its stakeholders.  Materiality analysis – identifying the most significant issues – is the foundation of successful sustainability strategies, as well as Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Integrated Reporting.

BuzzWord was one of the first practitioners of materiality assessment in the sustainability context, developing a methodology to help Ford Motor Company identify and prioritize issues more than a dozen years ago. We’ve refined our proven approach to be useful at various scales for companies in multiple industries. BuzzWord has used the process with clients such as Southwestern Energy, Smithfield Foods, Starbucks, Apache and Calvert Investments, to help shape report content and inform longer-term strategy. We offer a tailored approach to materiality analysis, using our proprietary methodology and adapting it to be as efficient as possible while meeting the client’s objectives.

Materiality in Action

BuzzWord helped Southwestern Energy conduct its first materiality analysis as part of the launch of its corporate responsibility strategy and reporting and we periodically update the analysis.

BuzzWord developed and applied an innovative method to the fifth materiality analysis we conducted for Ford Motor Company. The method maps material issues to megatrends and uses the trends to “amplify” the issue prioritization. Details of that method and the results are available in Ford’s 2014/15 Sustainability Report, which also provides one of the most transparent accountings of the method and results of a materiality analysis.


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