Leveraging reporting to drive sustainability.
By Mike Wallace
Having just returned from our second trip to the West Coast in 2012 in collaboration with CR Magazine, I felt it timely to share with you some of the things we are learning as we enter our second year in the US.
The past year has been an amazing ride for GRI here in the US . Friends like CROA have been instrumental in helping GRI gain momentum very quickly here in the US. In fact, it is do their support and other associations like them that we have had a tremendous uptake in GRI in the US. Information collected by our US Data Partner – Governance & Accountability Institute is now indicating that GRI reporters in the US have grown by over 30% in the last year. The numbers are still being tallied, but watch follow me @M_A_Wallace to learn the latest as soon as it comes out.
What are we seeing?
First, there is an incredible amount of interest in the subject of sustainability and it is coming from all corners of the economy – from both public and private corporations, to national, state and local agencies, to academic institutions and, of course, non-profit organizations. Second, the entrepreneurial spirit in the US continues to thrive as all sorts of entities and passionate individuals strive to enter into the field as they recognize the growing business opportunities. Third, this all creates a potential and tendency for all this energy to generate unnecessary confusion and / or redundancy in the field and can be counter to our collective interests to – ‘reduce, reuse & recycle’.
Due to GRI’s global efforts and increasing uptake, we have an unending number of requests to speak either as part of the never ending stream of sustainability related events, or to individual organizations trying to understand how and what to report. The GRI Focal Point USA offices alone could spend every hour of every day speaking individually to POTENTIAL and EXISTING sustainability reporters about their needs and interests in addressing the growing demand and interest in disclosing sustainability information according to GRI.
In addition, there are an ever increasing number of sustainability related events happening all across North America that are interested in either featuring GRI or GRI reporters in the content. This doesn’t include the growing number of individuals and advisors who want to talk to GRI about their latest ideas for collaboration or partnership, or about how GRI could be improved. There aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with all this demand, and this is just reality at GRI. What about the major US corporate brands that are constantly being asked to engage, speak, contribute, respond, answer and/or report out about their activities in this space? How can any of them attend to their core business needs
How does GRI manage?
First of all, GRI was created almost 15-years ago with the purpose of standardizing how ALL organizations would view AND report on sustainability performance. Through a global multi-stakeholder process the GRI Reporting Framework emerged and has been continually improved with the input of over 30,000 sustainability practitioners from all corners of the global economy. As such, the GRI Reporting Framework is now being written into national laws, integrated into stock exchange listing guidelines, utilized by state own corporations and woven into procurement policies. It is being used by more than 80% of the world’s largest corporations (the Global 250) as they tell their sustainability story and being used by private companies, academic institutions, government agencies, non-profits and even large events to report out on sustainability performance.
This is all well and good, but it needs to be understood that the majority of our time here in the US is spent re-telling this GRI story and reiterating the fact that a globally recognized sustainability reporting framework has existed for almost 15-years, integrates other globally recognized frameworks and is already being used by the majority of the United States’ largest companies. Even though my colleagues and I and most GRI reporters know this, it is surprising how many in the field are not aware of GRI’s history or global uptake.
Why should you care?
If you are in this field then you are of a similar mindset that we need to conserve our resources and all need to be more efficient about our daily operational activities. This ranges from corporations to sustainability advisors, ranking and rating firms and event organizers. It is no longer physically possible for a US company (or a global company for that matter) to keep up with all the varying demands they have to “present” their sustainability story. It is also unsustainable for all the varied sustainability related initiatives and efforts to carry on with their own efforts at the current pace and growth rate of the field.
We in this field know we have 1-plant and we all know that we are currently beyond the carrying capacity of this planet. Many of us feel incredibly passionate about these issues and many of us have very strong opinions about what “these issues” are. We, however, cannot and will never be able to truly make sense of the rate and pace of our consumption of the earth’s finite resources unless we all measure, report and then manage in a consistent, comparable and credible manner.
This is exactly what GRI was created for 15-years ago and continues to provide for all of us – if we would just use it!
Sustainability 4.0 – the next generation of reporting
One of our biggest efforts this year is to drive global feedback back into the GRI Reporting Framework - https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/latest-guidelines/Pages/default.aspx . GRI’s multi-stakeholder process is what lends global credibility to the Guidelines themselves. It is estimated that over 30,000 experts in sustainability have contributed to GRI’s work over the years. This has come about not only in the creation of the core set of Guidelines, but also in the development of ten Sector Supplements - https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/sector-guidance/Pages/default.aspx and in numerous research and Linkage Documents - https://www.globalreporting.org/Pages/resource-library.aspx?resSearchMode=resSearchModeText&resCatText=Linkage+Documents .
The G4 Development Process
At this very moment GRI is working globally to enhance the Guidelines and bring them up to date with the most current thinking on the sustainability reporting. This work will culminate in the next generation of the GRI Reporting Framework, also known as G4.
The Guidelines’ development is influenced by changes in the reporting field, such as the introduction of new concepts, trends and tools, and requests by new players. By developing guidance, GRI aims to drive and direct sustainability reporting, towards a sustainable global economy.
The landscape of sustainability reporting is continuously evolving; which influences the development of GRI’s guidance. More stakeholders than ever – including regulators, investors, rating agencies and NGOs – are increasingly asking for non-financial data.
The next generation of GRI Guidelines – G4 – will aim to address requirements for sustainability data, and enable reporters to provide relevant information to various stakeholder groups. The Guidelines will also improve on content in the current Guidelines – G3 and G3.1 – with strengthened technical definitions and improved clarity, helping reporters, information users and assurance providers.
G4 is planned to be published in 2013. G4’s development follows GRI’s due process, using GRI’s multi-stakeholder international consultation method. Public consultation periods, diverse expert Working Groups and GRI’s approval procedures will ensure that G4’s guidance is consensus-based and reflects the broadest possible stakeholder input.
A detailed description of the steps GRI will take in developing G4 is provided in the G4 Development Process Overview.
International Working Groups
The G4 Working Groups - https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/latest-guidelines/g4-developments/g4-working-groups/Pages/default.aspx are tasked with developing the content of the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. A total of five Working Groups will contribute to the G4 Guidelines, these are:
Global Public Comment Periods
The first public comment period (PCP) for G4 ran for a period of 90 days between 26 August and 24 November 2011. The PCP attracted around 2300 participants in total, 1832 of whom provided a submission to the online survey.
The online survey formed the basis for all consultation activities and was made available in five languages (English, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish). During this period, GRI also held workshops on the survey contents, and accepted submissions addressing G4 outside of the survey platform, for example by email.
The findings of this consultation process led to decision making on the formation of Working Groups and possible ways forward for the G4 development process. The many constructive comments received will also support the Working Groups and Secretariat during the G4 development process.
A series of documents providing detailed information about the PCP results is available to download here:
· The original survey document in five languages (English, Chinese, Spanish, French and Portuguese)
· A full listing of the qualitative submissions made throughout the public comment period (Please note: this is a large file size – 7MB – and may take a while to download)
Having your say
The Working Groups will develop a first draft of G4, which will be available for public comment in mid-2012. The final draft of G4 will be influenced by the results of this international public consultation. This is your time, and all those you know to have your say in the future of sustainability reporting. GRI’s Focal Point USA will be holding online and in-person working sessions to solicit feedback and we have already committed – thanks to CROA’s Commit Campaign – to hold at least one Public Comment Period in late summer in San Francisco.
If you have an interest in hosting/holding a Public Comment Period on the G4 – please let us know.
ASSE – American Society of Safety Engineers - http://www.asse.org/CSHS/
o Video Presentation - http://growglobally.org/?p=942
· USGBC – Green Building Council - http://www.usgbc.org/Docs/News/GRI_USGBC.pdf
· NAEM – National Association of Environmental Managers - http://www.naem.org/?LN_2011_08_31
· VHA - association of healthcare suppliers - https://www.vha.com/News/PressReleases/Pages/2011_0208_GRIStatement.aspx
· ICMM - Association of the mining & metals Industry -
o Video Presentation - http://growglobally.org/?p=942
· CECA - association of savings banks -
· Association of Chilean Wine Industry - http://www.sustentavid.org/english/social-responsibility--gri-reports.html