- Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) produces the world’s de facto standard in sustainability reporting guidelines. Sustainability reporting is the action where an organization publicly communicates their economic, environmental, and social performance. The GRI’s mission is to make sustainability reporting by all organizations as routine and comparable as financial reporting. The GRI Guidelines are the most common framework used in the world for reporting. More than 1000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports. (View the world’s reporters at the GRI Reports database). All sorts of organizations report using the GRI Guidelines, such as corporate businesses, public agencies, smaller enterprises,
NGOs, industry groups and others.
Why companies and other organizations do sustainability reports
Reporting on sustainability performance is an important way for organizations to manage their impact on sustainable development. The challenges of sustainable development are many, and it is widely accepted that organizations have not only a responsibility but also a great ability to exert positive change on the state of the world’s economy, and environmental and social conditions.
Reporting leads to improved
sustainable developmentoutcomes because it allows organizations to measure, track, and improve their performance on specific issues. Organizations are much more likely to effectively manage an issue that they can measure.
As well as helping organizations manage their impacts, sustainability reporting promotes transparency and accountability. This is because an organization discloses information in the public domain. In doing so, stakeholders (people affected by or interested in an organization’s operations) can track an organization’s performance on broad themes – such as environmental performance - or a particular issue - such as labor conditions in factories. Performance can be monitored year on year, or can be compared to other similar organizations.
Why are the GRI the most used guidelines / how are they created?
The Guidelines are the most used, credible and trusted framework in the world largely because of the way they are created: through a multi-stakeholder, consensus seeking approach.
This means that representatives from a broad cross section of society – business, civil society, labor, accounting, investors, academics, governments, and others – from all around the world come together and achieve consensus on what the Guidelines should contain. Having multiple stakeholders ensures that multiple needs and all stakeholders are considered. This contrasts to what might happen if, for example, just business representatives, or just NGO representatives created the guidelines. It is also beneficial as it helps to increase the chances that all relevant sustainability issues are included, and the accompanying best measures are developed.
About the G3 and the Reporting Framework
The G3 are the so-called “Third Generation” of the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. They were launched in October 2006 at a large international conference that attracted thousands.
There is a “third generation” because the GRI seeks to continually improve the Guidelines. The G3 build on the G2 (released in 2002), which in turn are an evolution of the initial Guidelines, which were released in 2000.The G3 Guidelines provide universal guidance for reporting on sustainability performance. This means they are applicable to small companies, large multinationals, public sector, NGOs and other types of organizations from all around the world. It is the way that the Guidelines are created (through the multi-stakeholder, consensus seeking approach) that enables them to be so broadly applicable.
The G3 consist of principles and disclosure items (the latter includes performance indicators). The principles help reporters define the report content, the quality of the report, and give guidance on how to set the report boundary. Principles include those such as materiality, stakeholder inclusiveness, comparability and timeliness. Disclosure items include disclosures on management of issues, as well as performance indicators themselves (e.g. “total water withdrawal by source”).
The G3 are the base of the Reporting Framework. There are other elements such as Sector Supplements and National Annexes that respond to the needs of specific sectors, or national reporting requirements.The Reporting Framework (including the G3) is a free and public good.
Governance of the GRI
The “GRI” refers to the global network of many thousands worldwide that create the Reporting Framework, use it in disclosing their sustainability performance, demand its use by organizations as the basis for information disclosure, or are actively engaged in improving the standard.
The network is supported by an institutional side of the GRI, which is made up of the following governance bodies: Board of Directors, Stakeholder Council, Technical Advisory Committee, Organizational Stakeholders, and a Secretariat. Diverse geographic and sector constituencies are represented in these governance bodies. The GRI headquarters and Secretariat is in
Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The GRI was formed by the United States based non-profits Ceres [http://www.ceres.org] (formerly the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and Tellus Institute, with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (
UNEP) in 1997. It released an “exposure draft” version of the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines in 1999, the first full version in 2000, the second version was released at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg– where the organization and the Guidelines were also referred to in the Plan of Implementation signed by all attending member states. Later that year it became a permanent institution, with its Secretariat in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Although the GRI is independent, it remains a collaborating centre of UNEPand works in cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact.
UN Global Compact
* [http://www.globalreporting.org Global Reporting Initiative]
* [http://www.ceres.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=435 Ceres: GRI & Sustainability Reporting]
* [http://www.mallenbaker.net/csr/CSRfiles/GRI.html The Global Reporting Initiative] - some critical analysis from the mallenbaker.net site on corporate social responsibility.
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