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Five lessons learned from CSRD implementation,
from someone who’s been (and is still) there

By Lorinda Niemeyer

  • LinkedIn

As a sustainability leader or advisor grappling with simply mastering the details of CSRD and the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), you may feel a bit overwhelmed mobilizing or leading your organization on this journey. While there is no single path forward, we’ve learned a few lessons from our efforts so far that hope will help.

CSRD is of course a game changer for sustainability reporting, elevating it from a voluntary endeavor to a standardized and rigorous process aligned with the importance of sustainability in today’s business landscape. But raising the bar on quality of reporting means raising the bar on reporting process, too. If ever there were a time to call sustainability a “team sport” –  it’s now.

One of the key lessons learned from our last year of preparing for CSRD: Building support across the entire organization and bringing together sustainability, finance, audit, risk, and beyond, has never been more important.

Here are five lessons we’ve learned working within and across companies about how to launch or move your CSRD efforts forward.

1: Forge a strategic partnership with finance

In most organizations, financial reporting and sustainability reporting are separate, with financial reporting following well-defined rules and timelines, while sustainability reporting is often a bit more ad hoc. CSRD requires companies to provide sustainability data in the management report of the financial statements, which, for many organizations, means several months before the typical reporting timeline, and with many more “hoops” to jump through in terms of controls to support assurance.

In a CSRD world, building a close working relationship between sustainability and the CFO is paramount. Sustainability and finance leaders should work jointly to

  • Establish joint finance-sustainability support and oversight for CSRD reporting

  • Develop a compelling narrative that underscores the strategic and financial benefits of CSRD compliance

  • Align priorities, share resources, and jointly champion the initiative to secure executive buy-in and organizational-wide support


2: Establish a cross-functional task force

Sustainability strategy and reporting are by nature cross-functional. For reporting, this means that a company may have dozens of data owners across the organization who will need to provide information for sustainability reporting.

Given the rigor expected in CSRD, this will require new ways of working. Companies should

  • Assemble a diverse team representing sustainability, finance, legal, human resources, and operations, along with other functions who play a role as data owners or stakeholders

  • Work with functional leads to develop a comprehensive implementation plan fit for purpose for each sub-team

  • Use working groups to support accountability for CSRD tasks, including data aggregation, scenario analysis, and reporting procedures, fostering cross-pollination of knowledge and efficient problem-solving


3: Implement a robust data governance framework

A hallmark of CSRD reporting is the elevation of sustainability data to be on par with financial reporting. This includes assurance. To do this, most companies will need to raise their game on controls and data. In addition to working closely with finance, sustainability leaders should

  • Work with internal audit and even external auditors to understand requirements for data controls and assurance early in the process

  • Support internal data owners in implementing controls and processes. Standardizing data collection and reporting methodologies across departments can also help support consistency

  • Consider investments in automation tools and technology solutions to streamline data capture, analysis, and reporting processes, which can improve efficiency and enhance data integrity


4: Build capacity and upskill talent across the entire organization

CSRD and ESRS are new to all of us, but the input and effort needed from across organizations is significant. This is a perfect time for organizations to invest in new capacity so all colleagues understand what is expected and how they can contribute. It will be important to

  • Provide tailored training programs, from the Board level to data owners across the organization, on CSRD and ESRS requirements

  • Encourage cross-functional knowledge sharing and collaboration through workshops, seminars, and other knowledge-building initiatives

  • Consider external expertise from consultants or dedicated training programs to bolster overall capabilities


5: Ensure focus while embracing continuous improvement

CSRD reporting, like all sustainability efforts, is a journey. The double materiality assessment will help define where companies must focus their time, but the quality of data and reporting will likely need to improve over time. Here, sustainability leaders can help their organizations succeed by

  • Fostering a culture of learning and feedback, including across functions

  • Monitoring the evolving regulatory landscape

  • Adjusting strategies as needed, sharing learnings and best practices


These recommendations can help sustainability leaders and advisors mobilize organizations to navigate the CSRD landscape effectively and build a more credible and robust sustainability story and strategy.

Welcome to the party – we are here with you, and here to help.


Earth Academy has worked with dozens of leaders and advisors as they build capacity to lead companies on their CSRD reporting journeys. For more information on how we can help, see CSRD HUB.

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