GRI Changes the Game of Sustainability Reporting

Escape from the reporting trap
GRI Changes the Game of Sustainability Reporting
Publ. date 22 Jun 2015
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) revealed its new ambitions for the future in order to catalyze the next era of sustainability reporting. With its new 2015-2020 strategy, the pioneer of the sustainability reporting process, extends the scope from sustainability reporting to focusing on capturing value opportunities. Herewith GRI wants to empower companies to leverage their capabilities and competences towards building a more sustainable economy and society. The new GRI strategy is an urgent call to escape from the Reporting Trap, where companies get stuck in box-checking issues when it comes to sustainability, and actually create value from societal issues.

Oh crap, it's a trap!

“Today, information from the sustainability reporting process is being used in more ways than ever before, to increase transparency and build trust in businesses and governments,” GRI’s Chief Executive Michael Meehan explains. Currently, the GRI guidelines for sustainability reporting are used by thousands of organizations all over the world. However, only a few of them move beyond the report and use the materiality analyses as an effective instrument to reveal where they can add value to both society as for their own business. Since reporting is not a goal in itself, but merely a way to build a transparent understanding of the organizations activities. GRI now recognizes that the real value comes from capturing the opportunities that are revealed in the materiality matrix: ranging from eco efficiency, access to SRI capital, to innovation and engagement of stakeholders.

GRI's new priorities come in 4-fold

A transition from securing the license to operate towards sustainable value creation is in progress. GRI understands that sustainability policies and reporting standards should be considered as the first steps in the process. They recognize that the development of sustainability doesn’t stop at reporting. GRI has declared four key priorities for its new strategy:

  • Enabling Smart Policy: providing governments, capital markets and international organizations guidance on smart sustainability policies that can address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change, human rights, corruption, and many others.
  • More Reporters and Better Reporting: staying close to its origin, GRI wants to stimulate the sustainability reporting movement by inspiring and inviting more organizations to start with sustainability reporting and for those that already do, to strive for better quality reporting.
  • Moving Beyond Reports: making clear that the sustainability report is a valuable output, but not the final result of sustainability. The report rather serves as the laying foundation for sustainability efforts. GRI aims to ensure decision makers have access to high quality and reliable information they are demanding.
  • Innovation and Collaboration: using the GRI standards as a launch pad for sustainable innovation including collaboration with key stakeholders. 

Moving beyond reporting: value from materialities

The importance of a well balanced materiality matrix that not only covers business risks, but that also can be used as a driver for innovation is being labeld by GRI as 'moving beyond reporting', Basically it all starts with a solid analysis of which sustainability topics are most relevant for both external stakeholders as well as the impact on the business.

Finch & Beak has already put this way of thinking into practice and launched GLOBE-US in 2012, a process approach that is co-developed with Alexander Osterwalder, creator of the celebrated Business Model Canvas. In seven steps GLOBE-US guides a company from the determination of its existing business model, to the assessment of materialities towards value creation based on eco-efficiency, stakeholder engagement and innovation. Since its introduction, GLOBE-US has been applied in multiple international settings varying from Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) in different industries, such as Pharmaceuticals, Food, Agribusiness, Oil & Gas Storage and Telecom. 

Ready to capture your sustainability opportunities?

Check out our video in this article to see how GLOBE-US could work for you or read our latest article on INSEAD's Knowledge Blog - The Leadership Journey, where the practical case of the Belgian telecom company Telenet on 'Steering Clear of the Sustainability Reporting Trap' is being explained. If you have any remaining questions or when you would like to receive additional information, you are more than welcome to contact Nikkie Vinke, Senior Consultant, at nikkie@finchandbeak.com or call +31 6 28 02 18 80. 

Image source: Flickr, Torbakhopper 

About Nikkie Vinke

Multidisciplinary advisor in ESG benchmarking, sustainability strategy development and execution. | nikkie@finchandbeak.com

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