All sustainability reports published after 31 December 2015 that claim GRI compliance will need to be developed in accordance with G4. This means that companies need to start preparing as soon as possible. But before you start running: What critical actions are recommended to be ready for implementing GRI G4?
In general a leadership team will recognize the external pressure from governments, stock exchanges, markets, investors, and society at large to be transparent. This implicates clear communication and progress on sustainability objectives, performance, and achievements through providing reliable non-financial data. However the level of buy-in of the senior management needs to be checked before embarking on the GRI G4-journey, since it impacts a firm’s commitment in terms of time and money, as well as in future behavior of the company on non-financial reporting. In addition, management commitment creates a support base for sustainability and drives improvement.
A key take-away is to evaluate the current status of the material issues and their priority setting in a up-to-date Materiality Matrix. Are the materialities defined yet, and if so, were the right methods used according to GRI G4?
The principal distinction between the previous GRI G3 and the current GRI G4 guidelines, is the enlarged emphasis on the need for organizations to focus the process of reporting. The spirit of the new guideline is to report on material issues that are most relevant for key stakeholders ánd at the same time have a substantial direct or indirect impact on the organization’s long term success. Reporting switches from completeness towards the relevance of issues in terms of the company’s ability to maintain or create economic, environmental or social value for itself, its stakeholders and society at large. The governance of this new approach is in a clear documentation of the process that leads to a solid company unique materiality matrix.
The Berlin-based Reporting 3.0 platform is a clear representative of these developments as is illustrated by John Elkington, founding partner of Volans and co-founder of SustainAbility. He emphasizes the ongoing transition in reporting by naming his presentation for the Reporting 3.0 upcoming conference in Berlin on 6 and 7 October 2014: “Towards breakthrough capitalism – the role of reporting in a change of age”.
The materiality focus of GRI G4 guidelines leads to more relevant, more credible and more user-friendly sustainability reports. However, the time and effort that the reporting team has put into previous editions of your company’s sustainability reports, still contains valuable information. To be able to determine which information and data is still usable for the GRI G4 report, Finch & Beak has developed a structured approach for doing a GRI G4 gap-analysis.
The Gap-analysis will help to identify, if current GRI indicators are sufficient according to the new GRI G4 General Standard Disclosures and the Specific Standard Disclosures. Furthermore it will support detecting gaps between G3 and G4, where additional information and datagathering (not something easily implemented!) is needed for reporting.
Although 31 December 2015 looks far ahead in the future, now is the time to start preparing for GRI G4, since data collection needs to be in place within 3 month's time. Call +31 6 28 02 18 80 if you could use assistance with the preparations for GRI G4, and ask for Josée van der Hoek, senior consultant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, Flickr