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FAQs - Matereality 

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)s will hopefully fill in any blanks but if you still want to find out more you can always get in touch. There is also a 4-minute explainer video here, and detailed article with more info, here.

  • What is “Matereality”
    1) Perspective on a company's potential contribution to thriving human society within a healthy global biosphere. 2) An alternative approach to traditional materiality assessments, i.e. the current way in which ESG issues are assessed and organized within the globally recognized reporting frameworks such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), etc. 3) A reality-based look at what a company actually does, and how this affects the world. You can read more about the context and details here, “When Materiality Meets Reality” and see key insights emerging from the assessments in the Matereal World.
  • How is “Matereality” different from “materiality”?
    It’s not a spelling error! The differences are: 1. Matereality assumes a defined set of issues for all companies so time is not spent determining what the issues are, whereas materiality is focused on determining issues of relevance. 2. Matereality is transparent — anyone with access to the internet can review the findings, including stakeholder interview videos, audios and transcripts and other inputs, whereas materiality is typically kept in a “black box” and only the issues list is made public along with generic phrasing about the process. 3. The intention of matereality is to generate results that the company can use to sense-check their direction of travel. With traditional materiality, the results offer no meaningful guidance to do anything other than write more words in their ESG report, usually reflecting what they’re already doing. 4. Matereality examines how a company’s current business model contributes to the future we want, whereas materiality examines potential issues of relevance to stakeholders and the business without *directly* addressing the business model or the desired future.
  • How is a Matereality assessment conducted?
    In a nutshell, there is some desk research, recorded interviews, analysis and then summarizing. You can see more details within any of the assessments listed here. Here is a slide deck that gives an overview of the methodology and approach. There is also a video where I walk through the methodology, with voice over and some feedback and questions with Geoff Kendall from Future-Fit here.
  • Who is involved in this initiative?
    I am the lead of this project. To find out more about my work you can read my bio or my LinkedIn profile. However, I am drawing on the work of many others who are actively working and innovating in the ESG space, and/or who have created the ground work for matereality in some way. I do my best to reference others where relevant but suffice to say, I am standing on the shoulders of a whole flock of giants - human and non - but any blunders are solely my own. And although I am essentially inventing this and giving it away, anyone is free to take ideas from here and build on them in whatever way works. So in principle anyone who wants to be involved is involved.
  • How is this funded?
    No one contracted me to do this work. I am doing this because I have spent the last two decades coming to understand the field of ESG, and within it, mainstream ESG materiality. In that context I have felt that there are ways it needs to change in order to have an impact so that's what I set out to do. I have said so publicly before such as in the articles “ESG Reporting is Like Less Wife Beating” and Dear Mr. Fink, but I realized that maybe instead of complaining about it I should just try a different way myself. So I’m taking a bit of time to do this, because I think it’s worth doing. If you think that’s a good idea and you just want to fund me because you can, here is a link to do that.
  • How can I find out more?
    You can see more details about specific anaylyses here. I explain the broad concept and methodology in this video with Geoff Kendall from Future-Fit here and in an article explaining the process and journey on my Medium page here. Beginning in May 2023, I opened the Matereal World where I share key insights emerging from the work.
  • How do you choose which companies to assess?
    I am doing assessments on companies with whom I have never directly worked as a client. This way I can be sure all the information I am drawing on is in the public domain (and/or comes from stakeholder interviews which are made public). I am choosing a range from different industries (e.g. media/technology; banking; consumer goods) to be representative of our current economy, choosing large players from within the various sectors so that they are as potentially impactful as possible. I am hoping to conduct several of these as examples to share. They take a while! And as I am team of one doing this (whereas usually for conventional materiality a team of consultants is brought on board, along with the support of the internal corporate team) it remains to be seen how many I can complete in the four-month window I've given myself before I have to figure out how to pay my bills again. (See "How is this funded?" above.)
  • Who decides what “the future we want” looks like?
    This is a complex question and the reality is there isn't one answer. For the basic methodology, there is a recommended approach the combines a range of insights. And then during the assessment, stakeholders are asked to define the future they want. So, in a sense, we all do. The point isn't to have one perfectly defined future, rather to ensure that a company is even asking whether or not they're contributing to a future we want. I believe we would do well to sit with these questions and at the moment regular materiality doesn’t ask them.
  • Why did you start with Alphabet (Google)?
    I chose this Alphabet (Google) for the first analysis for a few reasons. First, if they shifted towards truly regenerative practices, with their infrastructure and reach we could see massive change in the right direction. So - I was thinking about impact. Second, I use the company's products every day so it feels highly relevant to me, personally. I am doing all I can to focus on my own specific role in facilitating positive change rather than swimming in everyone else's lane, so starting here felt aligned with that. And finally, because they are so large and complex, I figured if the methodology could at least partially work for this company then surely it could work for simpler companies. Go big or go home, right?
  • How can I get a Matereality assessment for my company/my client?
    Anyone is welcomed to use the documents and guidance offered here and to apply the approach. All that is required is the time and will. If you do go for it, I'd love to hear more about how it goes. Since transparency is a huge part of this, I'll be really curious to see the results! You can always contact me to share the links, or tag me out in the interwebs (my social links are in the footer of this page). I also speak and guide so if you and your team need a good dose of inspiration, get in touch -- perhaps I can help you out.
  • Are you crazy?
    No. My mother had me tested.
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