Information overload: In a multimedia world, how do busy CRS practitioners stay abreast of emerging trends?

More and more, we are exposed to a 24-hour cycle of news, be it via social media, online articles, email newsletters, must-read reports, or opinion blogs. Keeping up to date can feel like a fulltime job. 

I remember when the holiday month of August was about catching up on horizon scanning. Traditionally a time of distant deadlines and fewer meetings, the summer (like Christmas) was for bringing forward that teetering pile of CRS print articles from the back of the desk, put there for reading in a ‘quiet moment’. 

It is essential to understand what’s coming down the pipeline to impact strategy and influence stakeholders, so horizon scanning is an important part of every CRS practitioner’s job. And it’s not just one topic, there are many across the full ESG spectrum: from new government consultations on say, a forthcoming diesel-scrappage scheme, to the growing prominence of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and social impact reporting, right through to mandatory reporting on Modern Slavery and Human Rights.

Of course, spotting new trends is only half the battle. The bigger task is to understand their magnitude and prepare for their impact.

A recent study amongst ICRS members concluded that amongst busy CRS practitioners there was limited time for detailed research into different topics. Instead, practitioners preferred to look for trustworthy sources of information to synthesise and summarise trends.

Experienced CRS practitioners will have (developed over time) a ready-made bank of trusted information sources and the experience to interpret their conclusions.  New CRS practitioners, still learning to navigate the information jungle, may need a helping hand.

In my experience, peer networks are good places to start fact finding.  One of the most often asked questions at networking events must surely be: ‘what are you working on, right now?’ Be they online forums or face to face meet ups, both are great sources of information – not only for learning about emerging trends, but also for sharing ideas on how to manage their likely impacts. Additionally, there are many useful, fact-checked articles to draw upon, authored by credible sources with trustworthy CRS pedigrees.

When thinking about future trends it is useful to have in mind a set of filter question. For example, how will this trend influence my company or my sector? What will its impact be on my stakeholders? Why may this help or hinder my company’s business strategy? Thinking about trends in this way will save time and ensure the most salient facts and likely impacts are presented to your colleagues for discussion.

And finally, a key thing to remember about emerging trends is, they are just that … emerging. Sometimes, even after the best research in the world, it’s too early to predict what a trend will mean in practice.  Some articles may try to predict the future, but it’s worth keeping in mind the question, is it the right one?

Staying abreast of emerging trends can be time consuming, but it need not be a full-time job, if you select from the plethora of information sources wisely. Thank you for choosing to read this blog – I know how busy you are!

Sustainability reporting: The skills every CRS professional needs

Claudine Blamey is chair of ICRS

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