Global Reporting Initiative
With concepts such environmental sustainability, carbon footprints and social responsibility becoming part of everyday business vocabulary, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is serving an increasingly important role as it strives to “create conditions for the transparent and reliable exchange of sustainability information through the development and continuous improvement of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework” – as stated in its Mission Statement. So what is the GRI?
The GRI is a progressive organization that has developed a sustainability reporting framework used by a global network of organizational stakeholders (OS). The reporting criteria have been developed by drawing on the expertise of participants on a global scale, from a broad spectrum of market sectors, including business, labor, civil society and professional institutions. Having consulted extensively with experts from different fields, the reporting framework (Sustainability Reporting Guidelines) seeks to standardize data in order for it to be of value to those who submit reports, and those who make use of the data being reported. This standardized approach sets out principles and indicators for measuring an organization’s economic, environmental and social performance. Other aspects of the reporting framework take into account certain aspects which are unique to specific market sectors, and to specific countries, and therefore do not fit into the standardized format.
The GRI started off in 1997, building on a concept for a database of sustainability information developed by the Boston-based NPO CERES. Having gone through a number of adjustments in the following years, in the year 2000 the GRI’s first Sustainability Reporting Guidelines was released, with 50 organizations submitting sustainability reports based on the prescribed Guidelines. The concept started to catch on and participation gained momentum, until in January 2009 it was reported that more than 1,500 organizations, from 60 countries, made use of the GRI Guidelines to submit sustainability reports.
The reasons for producing sustainability reports are many and complex, but from an investment point of view, sustainability reporting promotes accountability and transparency, with information being made public. This way, stakeholders have an easily accessible method of tracking an organization’s performance overall, as well as on specific issues of interest. Organization performance can be compared year on year, as well as being compared to other organizations that are similar, thereby keeping the spirit of competition fresh and serving as an incentive to management teams to improve performance. Many stock market players, especially socially responsible investors, find the Global Reporting Initiative invaluable when making those all-important investment decisions.