Companies must produce tangible results that put us on a truly sustainable path. For climate change, that means a 50 percent improvement in energy efficiency and a 25 percent lower carbon footprint by 2020. It means eliminating hazardous waste, full life cycle product stewardship, industrial symbiosis, decreasing the footprint of suppliers and increasing human rights standards by 2020.

The GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) Guidelines have become the gold standard for sustainability reporting. 80% of the Global Fortune 250 companies report on sustainability and in Europe nearly 70% of the 2009 reports followed the GRI.  Uptake in Australia is growing at over 10% every year since 2007. Using the GRI guidelines enables consistent, comparable disclosure on sustainability performance, risks and opportunities.  It does not matter what your size (or your resource constraints), a good report is one that works for you and is in a manageable size (small companies may choose only 10 indicators to measure and monitor).  Implementing a GRI helps by:

  • Identifying new goals across key result areas (financial, governance, risk, environment, social, etc.), including a new overall GHG-reduction goal;
  • Delivering a better understanding of stakeholder concerns and materiality;
  • Saving money by identifying more efficient environmental strategies;
  • Developing new market opportunities around products that can help customers save costs and reduce energy use;
  • Creating a competitive advantage by attracting a more diverse talent, and therefore, creating a more innovative culture;
  • Educating employees and stakeholders about how sustainability is relevant and how they can contribute to a culture of innovation;
  • Making the company more transparent and accountable to stakeholders and employees; and
  • Challenging the company to do more.

A drive to convergence in international sustainability reporting is underway.  On 2 August 2010 The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced the formation of the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC). The principal objective of the IIRC is to create a globally accepted framework for integrated reporting by 2015.

Announced on 24 June, 2010 during the UNGC Leaders Summit in New York, to begin action on the collaboration between the UNGC and GRI, the GRI (G3) can be used to produce the Global Compact’s annually required Communication on Progress (COP). The COP is the mechanism through which UNGC participating companies demonstrate progress towards attainment of the ten UNGC Principles. And finally, Carbon Disclosure Project now has linked documents between GRI’s Reporting Guidelines and CDP’s 2010 Questionnaire (this is concerning carbon emissions).

The increasing breadth and depth of disclosure means that companies will need to extend the boundaries of their reporting in terms of geography, longer timeframes, and specific facilities and joint ventures. This requires companies to adjust and develop management and data collection systems.