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The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is becoming the gold standard for global companies both for reporting CSR and sustainability initiatives and for third party assessment of those initiatives. “GRI is an international not-for-profit organization, with a network-based structure. Its activity involves thousands of professionals and organizations from many sectors, constituencies, and regions” (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015, para. 6). It has developed its reporting framework in collaboration with stakeholders from business, government, labor, and professional groups in order to ensure credibility and relevance. GRI’s vision is “A sustainable global economy where organizations manage their economic, environmental, social and governance performance and impacts responsibly, and report transparently” and its mission is “To make sustainability reporting standard practice by providing guidance and support to organizations. Its Sustainability Reporting Framework provides metrics and methods for measuring and “reporting sustainability-related impacts and performance” (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015, para. 4) that enables all organizations to measure and report their sustainability performance.
GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 382 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 Its Guidelines establish the principles and performance indicators that organizations can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance in six categories: Economic, Environment, Social, Human Rights, Society, and Product Responsibility. GRI classifies reports as Application Level A, B or C, depending on the particular set of Guidelines’ disclosures and the number of indicators used by the reporting organization. Application levels are not a grade evaluating the quality of the report, but only represent the extent to which the Guidelines have been used in an organization’s report by identifying the set and how many disclosures have been addressed. The “+” behind the declared Application Level signifies that external assurance was sought for the report.
GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Standards are foundational to this success. With thousands of reporters in over 90 countries, GRI provides the world’s most widely used standards on sustainability reporting and disclosure, enabling businesses, governments, civil society and citizens to make better decisions based on information that matters. Of the world’s largest 250 corporations, 93% report on their sustainability performance and 82% of these use GRI’s Standards to do so. (KPMG International, 2013, p. 1) It has just adopted its G4 Reporting Framework, which will have more granularization for specific industries and types of initiatives as well as allow small organizations to participate. Its new G-4 Guidelines
have a focus on materiality:
A robust sustainability report is far more than a mere data gathering or compliance exercise. It makes
issues tangible and concrete, helping organizations to set goals, measure performance, and manage change. These are matters directly related to an organization’s core business strategy. Materiality is the threshold at which the sustainability subjects covered by the Guidelines – known as ‘Aspects’ – become sufficiently important that they should be reported. G4-based reports should cover Aspects that reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders. (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015a, p. 3) Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. recently published Sustainability – What Matters? on its research examining GRI G3 and G3.1 sustainability reports published in 2012. The research looked at organizations that utilized the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Framework to identify level of disclosure on all 84 key performance indicator disclosures. “The objective of this report is to serve as a starting point for discussion and planning around sector-specific materiality — as seen through the lens of these 1,246 reporting organizations as well as the lens of their respective stakeholders” Governance & Accountability, 2014, p. 1) the report listed the ranking of each GRI category, Society, Human Rights, Economic, Labor Practices and Decent Work, Environment, and Product Responsibility for each sector, and then identified the top ten aspects of the categories for each sector. The top ten categories for all sectors: Diversity & Equal Opportunity, Economic Performance, Energy, Training & Education, Child Labor, Compliance, Non-discrimination, Labor/Management Relations, Prevention of Forced & Compulsory Labor,
Corruption. The list below identifies only the top three for each sector:
Agriculture: Child Labor, Prevention of Forced & Compulsory Labor, Biodiversity Automotive: Products & Services, Overall (environmental), Customer Health & Safety Aviation: Customer Health & Safety, Local Communities, Assessment Chemicals: Assessment, Overall (environmental), Water Commercial Services: Customer Privacy, Anti-Competitive Behavior, Training & Education Computers: Transport, Assessment, Products & Services GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 383 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 Conglomerates: Child Labor, Water, Compliance Construction: Anti-Competitive Behavior, Non-discrimination, Corruption Construction Materials: Materials, Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining, Transport Consumer Durables: Investment & Procurement Practices, Indigenous Rights, Products & Services Energy: Overall (environmental), Biodiversity, Security Practices Energy Utilities: Compliance, Anti-competitive Behavior, Labor/Management Relations Equipment: Customer Health & Safety, Indigenous Rights, Energy Financial Services: Customer Privacy, Materials, Marketing Communications Food and Beverage Products: Customer Health & Safety, Marketing Communications, Products & Services Forest and Paper Products: Materials, Biodiversity, Labor/Management Relations Healthcare Products: Customer Health & Safety, Products & Services, Water Healthcare Services: Diversity & Equal Opportunity, Marketing Communications, Non-discrimination Household and Personal Products: Public Policy, Customer Health & Safety, Investment & Procurement Practices Logistics: Labor/Management Relations, Economic Performance, Energy Media: Materials, Equal Remuneration for Women & Men, Local Communities Metals Products: Materials, Overall (environmental), Water Mining: Biodiversity, Water, Market Presence Public Agency: Overall (environmental), Market Presence, Equal Remuneration for Women & Men Railroad: Local Communities, Remediation, Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining Real Estate: Employment, Non-discrimination, Diversity & Equal Opportunity Retailers: Transport, Customer Health & Safety, Assessment Technology Hardware: Prevention of Forced & Compulsory Labor, Child Labor, Products & Services Telecommunications: Customer Privacy, Marketing Communications, Indirect Economic Impacts Textiles and Apparel: Transport, Prevention of Forced & Compulsory Labor, Child Labor Tobacco: Marketing Communications, Water, Materials GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 384 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 Travel and Tourism: Customer Privacy, Security Practices, Non-discrimination Universities: Equal Remuneration for Women & Men, Customer Privacy, Materials Waste Management: Materials, Overall (environmental), Transport Water Utilities: Water, Customer Privacy, Assessment It is notable that many of the top ten are not identified in the top three; in fact, consumer health and safety are listed in seven segments for top three, materials are listed in five and assessment in is listed in four.
This would indicate a value for integrated reporting that could allow all companies in all sectors to have standards that meet their needs. According to Michael Meehan, GRI’s CEO, GRI “envisions a future beyond reports, where information from sustainability reporting empowers decision making throughout organizations” (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015b, para. 3). This would seem to help GRI achieve some
of its goals in its new five-year plan through 2020:
“Enabling smart policy” to support sustainability reporting and disclosure around the world. Continuing to grow its global community of reporters and “better reporting.” “Moving beyond reporting” by helping companies extract more value from the sustainability reporting process. Leveraging technology and big data “to enable others to succeed based on its standards.” (Macower, 2015, para 4).
Other Reporting Organizations and Standards
The difficulties can be seen in the number of organizations that have developed guidelines for measuring CSR and Sustainability such as International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. “The MSCI KLD 400 Social Index is a capitalization weighted index of 400 US securities that provides exposure to companies with outstanding Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings and excludes companies whose products have negative social or environmental impacts” (MSCI, 2015, para. 1) AccountAbility (2014) has developed accountability tools and standards that help companies develop sustainably. Additionally, there are other guidelines specific to industries or topic like ISO 26000, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Greenhous Gas Protocol (GHG), Protocol Corporate Standard, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Framework, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), International Labour Organization (ILO), Tripartite declaration of principles concentrating multinational enterprises and social policy, Core Labour Standers (CLS), and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The 2015 edition of The Conference Board Sustainability Practices Dashboard is a collaboration of The Conference Board, Bloomberg, and the Global Reporting Initiative that “is a database and online benchmarking tool that captures the most recent disclosure of environmental and social practices of business corporations” that “captures data on 79 environmental and social practices of business corporations in the S&P Global 1200 and segments results by market index, geography, sector, and revenue group.” It features data on two new practices: “the number of companies adopting executive compensation policies inclusive of long-term incentives of environmental, social and governance performance as well as the number of companies disclosing the presence of child labor policies.” It found that reporting continues to rise especially from large multinationals, many of whom are required to issue reports. (Environmental Disclosure, Benchmarking Tool Online, 2015) Then there are forums and networks that promote CSR and standards. The International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF Global, 2014) promotes responsible business leadership and partnerships for social, economic, and environmentally sustainable international development, especially in emerging markets. The Caux Round Table (2014), a network of business leaders, developed principles through which “principled capitalism can flourish and sustainable socially responsible prosperity can become the foundation for a fair, free, and transparent global society” (para. 2).
GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 385 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 There are also organizations that rank CRS/Sustainability/ESG such as Newsweek’s Greenest Companies, CRO’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens, Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies, Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America Indexes®, and NASDAQ OMX CRD Global Sustainability Index, CRD Analytics’ SPV Ratings®, and Carbon Disclosure Project score. Reports studying CSR and Sustainability are published by Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc., the United Nations Global
Compact/Accenture, and CONE Communications. Business Roundtable’s 2015 Create, Grow, Sustain:
Leading by Example has narratives from 148 CEOs about their CSR achievements. Some of the companies covered are: 3M, Accenture, Anadarko Petroleum, AT&T, Bayer, BlackRock, Boeing, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco Corning, CVS Health, Deere & Co, DIRECTTV, Dow Chemical, Edison Internationally, FedEx, GE, General Mills, Humana, Humana, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Lockheed Martin, MasterCard, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Pitney Bowes, Proctor & Gamble, SAS, Seimens AG, State Farm Insurance, Tenet, Texas International, UPS, Wyndham, Whirlpool Walmart, Xerox, The previous paragraphs make it clear that an integrated reporting platform with thirdparty assessment is needed if CSR reporting is to meet the needs of consumers. In August 2010, HRH the Prince of Wales, together with the International Federation of Accountants and the Global Reporting Initiative, launched the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). Integrated Reporting is a tool to communicate strategy holistically.