Introduction to Materiality Analysis
A framework to help organisations define or their work with sustainable development
Created by Evelina Lundqvist
In this template workshop, the facilitator guides the group through a materiality analysis. The purpose of the materiality analysis is to help companies determine which sustainable development topics are of greatest importance to the own organisation, as well as key stakeholders. The materiality analysis can be used to shape strategies or to define key performance indicators and impact measures. This workshop focuses on the foremost, to shape strategies. The results of the workshop can, e.g. be used to create a vision, a strategy, to set goals and develop new products and services.
This workshop is a first step to get an overview of which topics within sustainable development are relevant for the organisation and its stakeholders. The next task after this workshop is finished, would be in-depth work with the materiality analysis based on business intelligence regarding the respective stakeholders.
The workshop can be held internally in one organisation, or with a mix of people from different organisations. The facilitator will need to change the workshop outline accordingly.
Facilitating this session does not require any special certification. However, you need a proper understanding of the domain of sustainable development and the concept of materiality analysis to effectively support your group in conducting the main exercise of the session. The materiality analysis in itself is rather straightforward. However, what can be challenging is helping, especially a client with little or no experience working with sustainable development, as it’s a highly complex topic.
If the client’s experience and/or knowledge of sustainable development is low, an alternative start to their work is to conduct a life-cycle-analysis.
When preparing the workshop you need to formulate a focus question, which will be the theme of the workshop. You also need to decide which type of materiality analysis that suits the purpose of the workshop, as well as define the factors or parameters of the analysis.
The focus question and the type of materiality analysis should be clearly communicated in the workshop invitation and introduction (I DO ART) so that the purpose of the workshop is clear to everyone. Overall, the higher quality business intelligence or even scientific data used throughout the process, the more relevant the outcome of the process will be.
A materiality analysis is used to filter out the most relevant or “material” topics. There are several types of materiality analysis. Below you find two types that are used in the domain of sustainable development in general, and more specifically in a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) context. The types presented below are used primarily for strategy formation. Other types of materiality analysis can be used, e.g. to filter out impact measurements and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Chose which type of materiality analysis should be used in the workshop:
Focuses on the importance of various topics to external and internal stakeholders.
Y-axis: “Importance to external stakeholders.”
X-axis: “Impact on the organisation or importance to the organisation (internal stakeholders)
Analysing the results:
Focuses on the impacts on the organisation and its ability or opportunity to influence or control them.
X-axis: “Impact on the business/organisation.”
Y-axis: “Ability to impact/influence.”
Analysing the results:
Examples of focus questions:
Depending on the type of materiality analysis that you choose it can be helpful to define relevant internal and external stakeholders to address in the analysis already before the workshop. If this is not an option, ask the participants to limit their discussions to one or a few selected stakeholders.
Examples of internal stakeholders:
Examples of external stakeholder:
Factors or parameters
When facilitating a materiality analysis, you need a set of factors or parameters that you can move along the Y and X axis of the graph to define their relevance. These factors should be determined by the facilitators and/or the client well before the workshop. For a broad set of sustainable development factors or parameters you can use MethodKit for Sustainable Development, topics from the GRI reporting metric, the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or other carefully selected issues.
The factors or parameters should be prepared before the workshop. E.g. printed on cards, which can quickly and easily be moved by hand along the Y and X axis). Leave blank cards for the participants to fill in. Also, use post-its to attach specific and ideas to different cards.