May 19, 2024
Sustainability Simplified: Materiality Assessment

What is a Materiality Assessment?

Materiality Assessment ESG Reporting Tool - Sigma Earth

A materiality assessment is a crucial tool for businesses to identify and prioritise environment, social, and governance (ESG) issues that hold the most significance to both the organisation itself and its stakeholders. It goes beyond simply identifying relevant ESG issues; it weighs their relative importance based on a company's specific context. This allows sustainability teams to concentrate their efforts on the areas that will create the most significant positive impact.

Frequency of Materiality Assessments

The ideal frequency for conducting materiality assessments can vary depending on the company's industry, size, and the rate of change within its operations and stakeholder landscape. Generally, it's recommended to perform a materiality assessment at least every three years. However, significant events such as mergers, acquisitions, or major changes in regulations or stakeholder expectations might necessitate a more frequent assessment.

Stakeholders Involved in a Materiality Assessment

What Does Stakeholder Mean & Its Essential Definitions

A comprehensive materiality assessment necessitates the involvement of a diverse range of stakeholders. Here's a breakdown of the key stakeholder groups to include:

  • Internal stakeholders: Employees at various levels, management teams, and sustainability teams.
  • External stakeholders: Customers, investors, suppliers, industry associations, NGOs, and local communities.

By incorporating the perspectives of these stakeholders, companies can gain a well-rounded understanding of the ESG issues that matter most.

Steps to Conducting an Effective Materiality Assessment

Here's a breakdown of the essential steps involved in conducting a successful materiality assessment:

Planning and Scoping:

  1. Establish a project team with representatives from various departments and stakeholder groups.
  2. Define the assessment's objectives and scope, considering industry best practices and relevant regulations.

Stakeholder Engagement:

  1. Identify key stakeholders and develop a strategy to engage them in the assessment process. This may involve surveys, interviews, workshops, and online forums.

Materiality Issue Identification:

  1. Compile a comprehensive list of potential ESG issues relevant to the company's operations, value chain, and industry. Consider internal data, stakeholder feedback, and sustainability best practices.

Prioritisation of Issues:

  1. Assess the relative significance of each identified ESG issue using a prioritisation matrix. This matrix typically considers two dimensions:some text
    • The issue's potential impact on the company's financial, environmental, and social performance.
    • The importance of the issue to stakeholders.

Data Collection and Analysis:

  1. Gather data to substantiate the prioritisation of ESG issues. This data can come from internal sources (e.g., sustainability reports, life cycle assessments) and external sources (e.g., industry benchmarks, academic research).

Validation and Reporting:

  1. Verify the assessment's findings with stakeholders and finalise the materiality matrix, which visually depicts the prioritised ESG issues.
  2. Prepare a comprehensive report that outlines the assessment process, key findings, and a roadmap for integrating materiality considerations into the company's sustainability strategy.


Here is an example of Pfizer’s materiality assessment with their ESG issues. For this assessment, they had conversations with key internal and external stakeholders, including employees, investors, policymakers, patient advocacy groups, academia, and customers. 

Challenges of a Materiality Assessment

While materiality assessments offer significant benefits, there are also challenges to consider:

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Reaching out to a diverse range of stakeholders and ensuring their meaningful participation can be time-consuming and require effective communication strategies. It is also challenging to get enough coverage (or responses) from within a stakeholder group.

  • Data Availability and Quality: Gathering reliable data to substantiate the prioritisation of ESG issues can be challenging, especially for issues that lack standardised measurement frameworks.
  • Integration with Strategy: The true value of a materiality assessment lies in its integration with the company's overall sustainability strategy and business operations. This necessitates buy-in from leadership and a clear roadmap for implementation.

Double Materiality vs. Single Materiality

The concept of materiality can be approached from two perspectives:

  • Single Materiality: This traditional approach focuses on identifying ESG issues that significantly impact the company itself, primarily from a financial or operational standpoint.

  • Double Materiality: This broader perspective acknowledges that a company's operations can also have a significant impact on the environment and society. Therefore, double materiality assessments consider both the company's impact on ESG issues and the importance of these issues to the company's long-term success.

In conclusion, materiality assessments are a powerful tool for sustainability teams to identify and prioritise ESG issues with the most significant impact. By following a structured approach, engaging stakeholders, and acknowledging potential challenges, companies can leverage materiality assessments to inform their sustainability strategies, enhance stakeholder communication, and promote long-term sustainable growth.

Ready to Supercharge Your Sustainability?

Ready to achieve BRSR excellence with comprehensive BRSR services?

Let's discuss how our BRSR services can
be the catalyst for your business growth.

Discover More