Comparisons Learn how to correctly use comparisons in your analysis.

Victoria Schoenlaub

7 min Read Time | August 10th 2021

Key Takeaways

1

When comparing companies, they must be close competitors in size and scale. This means that they are similar in one or more of the following: employee size, number of stores, production size, and/or market share. Revenue can also be an indicator to consider when making sure the companies are similar in size and scale, but it is less consequential than the previously listed factors.

2

Make sure to state on what basis the companies are comparable.

3

Rather than comparing absolute numbers and stating how much one company emits/produces/consumes more than another, it is more insightful to know the intensity difference. This includes units of production or relative metrics (e.g., waste generated per unit of revenue/hazardous waste per total units produced).

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What is the issue?

Comparison between companies or industry averages can be beneficial to help readers assess the impact of a business. However, this needs to be done correctly.

How and when to use them?

Certain topics can benefit from adding a comparison to benchmark the company’s impact with its competitors or industry average — for example, greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water consumption, waste production, etc.

The easiest way to benchmark companies is through their annual revenue; this data is always publicly available. Nevertheless, it is not always the most relevant or accurate means of comparison/indicator. We suggest using a unit of production, relative metrics (e.g., waste generated per unit of revenue/hazardous waste per total units produced (intensity)), employee size, number of stores, market share, and/or revenue. If you would still like to use revenue, show another unit of comparison to ensure a similar size and scale.


Calculation Example


Calculation: intensity = (hazardous waste ÷ total waste) => (2,000 ÷ 10,000) = 0.2 tonnes of hazardous per 1 tonne of waste.


Calculation: intensity = (GHG emissions ÷ total number of employees) => (1,000,000 ÷ 12,000) = 83.3 tonnes of CO2e per full-time employee.


If you are analysing the amount of waste, greenhouse gases, or water consumed by the company, you can also use equivalents. Compare it to the average amount consumed/produced per person in the country where the company operates. Then you can make a simple calculation that estimates how much waste/GHG emissions/water the company makes in terms of people. Find more about it in our dedicated guide.

You may also use the industry averages or statistics (i.e., the amount of CO2 attributed to an industry) as a benchmark to assess the company's impact scale.

Caution

  • When providing a comparison, please specify the time period. Is it equivalent to the amount of waste produced per year or day? This is a small but important distinction.

  • Note that comparison should be secondary to the description of the total impact. For example, even if a company is doing better than a competitor or industry standards, this does not mean that it has an overall positive impact. The amount of waste, air pollution, etc., the company is producing may still be quite substantial and hazardous. This should be reflected in your conclusion and your rating.


Comparisons are not mandatory. They should only be used when they follow the standards described above, providing an effective and relevant comparison.

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