How GRI is Tackling New & Rising Challenges in Environmental, Social & Economic Reporting
The Global Reporting Initiative’s transition from the GRI G4 Guidelines to the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (or more simply, the ‘GRI Standards’) comes to an end this October. This makes for a particularly dynamic moment for sustainability reporting, and at the Enablon 2016 EMEA Sustainable Performance Forum (SPF), held in Paris, the timing was perfect to welcome GRI for an exclusive preview of the organization’s mid-to-long term roadmap, and the issues and trends shaping the sector.
On August 3, GRI announced the closing of the public comment period created to outline the Standards’ content, structure and formulation. As you read these lines, the GRI Standards Division and the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) are busy reviewing the feedback collected through an extensive online and workshop-based global consultation process.
If at final public meetings taking place in Amsterdam between 30 August and 1 September the GSSB determines that no additional public exposure period will be necessary, the definitive GRI Standards will be made public as soon as October 2016.
While very few organizations were disclosing ESG data in the late 1990s, today 75% of the world’s biggest companies use GRI, which boasts a database of over 33,000 reports.
As was discussed in detail during the SPF Issues & Trends session led by the GRI, the organization builds its core strategy on 4 key pillars, through which GRI operationalizes its mission of helping companies worldwide tackle the future challenges for Environmental, Social and Economic reporting:
1. Enabling Smart Policy
Much of the GRI’s work around encouraging companies to publically report extra-financial data has to do with promoting the organization’s initiatives and principles through high-level/international policy action. Under this pillar, in the past, GRI has heavily supported the role of sustainability reporting throughout the SDG process (and in SDG target 12.6 in particular), backed the EU Commission in passing reporting regulation at the EU level (i.e. the 2014 Directive on the disclosure of non-financial and diversity information), as well as collaborated with the UN Global Compact to develop tools such as the ‘SDG Compass’ and the SDG Target 12.6 Tracker, geared towards helping businesses internalize and attain the SDGs.
2. More Reporters, Better Reporting
To ensure that more organizations (no matter the size) are equipped and capable of reporting according to GRI standards, GRI is increasingly focusing on SMEs, both through capacity-building actions, as well as through the GRI’s Gold Community Program. In addition, GRI has also developed a dedicated online and training platform to support integrated reporting in organizations world-wide.
3. Looking at the Future – Moving Beyond Reports
Two key trends already shaping sustainability reporting are: 1) the advent of reporting and decision-making based on real-time data, and 2) the understanding that extra-financial reports (as outputs) matter not only to reporting organizations, but increasingly so, to citizens, customers and investors.
For GRI, the future of reporting also includes its vision for the GRI standards. In part thanks to the lengthy multistakeholder approach taken to create them, the standards promise to be more flexible than their G3 and G4 Guideline predecessors. They will more easily respond to changes and updates, and will also feature more modular, clarified and summarized content, where information has been merged and relocated. This also means that the standards will foster more consistent and higher-quality reporting, lead to more and better referencing in policy and regulation, and be far more approachable for SMEs.
The GRI’s March 2016 report on ‘Reporting in 2025’ (The Next Era of Corporate Disclosure: Digital, Responsible, & Interactive) further highlights three trends changing the future of sustainability reporting: global population increase, climate change, and data technology development.
4. Innovation and Collaboration
In view of the vast array of available reporting sources, guidelines and standards, GRI is strongly focusing on fostering collaboration and alignment among them. In addition, the Technology Consortium of GRI focuses on uncovering new ways of assisting businesses and governments to leverage sustainability data for better decision-making.
Publisher, Enablon’s digital sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement platform, empowers reporters to address GRI’s four key pillars while strengthening the role of sustainability reporting in advancing financial, environmental and social goals world-wide. The solution allows users to easily publish reports by either creating them based on leading reporting frameworks and guidelines (including GRI), or entirely customizing them by following a free and flexible structure that adapts to all companies, no matter how big or small.