THE ACADEMY OF BUSINESS STRATEGY
SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING BLOG
How to Lead by Example With GRI Sustainability Reporting
Maya Madrigal (CBS) MBA BA
“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”
This article gives an overview of The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting framework, and briefly provides brief a simplified introduction to key topics related to preparing and submitting a GRI-report. GRI Sustainability Reporting is a rigorous framework that can be successfully utilized by small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s), and large-scale global organizations.
GRI is a non-profit organization that supports sustainability initiatives by providing organizations with a standardized method of reporting on economic, environmental, social, and governance performance. Since 1999, they have continued to advance the most recognized and extensively utilized sustainability reporting framework in the world.
The GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database currently houses 10,034 sustainability reports, of which 9,346 (93.14%) are GRI-reports, submitted by 3,889 global organizations. Non-GRI reports are included in the database, as are reports that make reference using the GRI reporting framework but that do not include the GRI Content Index.
GRI is continuously engaged in the research and development of sustainability indicators and protocols, while collaborating with other leading organizations to promote transparency in sustainability reporting as a standardized practice.
REPORT PREPARATION RESOURCES
GRI provides an online library of guidelines, procedures and other tools for report preparers to use as resources in their reporting activities. All documents are available for free download. Key documents utilized by GRI report preparers include;
G3.1 & G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines: The G3.1 Guidelines, published in 2011, are currently the most up-to-date version of GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The G3 Guidelines, originally published in 2006, are still valid and continue to be utilized. G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are currently in development, and are scheduled to be available a year from now in May 2013.
G3.1 & G3 Guidelines Including Technical Protocol: This document includes, in addition to the current Guidelines, the Indicator Protocol Set. All indicators utilized in the GRI Reporting framework have accompanying protocols that establish definitions and boundaries. Indicator Protocols are organized into six major areas; Economic (EC), Environment (EN), Labor Practices and Decent Work (LA), Human Rights (HR), Society (SO), and Product Responsibility (PR).
Technical Protocol: Applying the Report Content Principles: This document gives an introduction to technical protocol, covers materiality in the context of the GRI Reporting Framework, and outlines the three main steps taken in the process of defining report content; 1) identification of relevant reporting topics, 2) analysis of the significance to both stakeholders’ and the organization, 3) prioritization of reporting topics by determining materiality and relative reporting priorities.
GRI Reporting Sector Guidance is currently available for organizations in the following sectors; Airport Operators, Construction and Real Estate, Electric Utilities, Event Organizers, Financial Services, Food Processing, Media, Mining and Metals, NGO, and for Oil and Gas.
GRI Reporting Sector Guidance is currently being piloted for organizations in the following sectors; Apparel and Footwear, Automotive, Logistics and Transportation, Public Agency, and for Telecommunications.
GRI is currently developing guidance for the media sector. When developing guidance for any sector, and in general when making improvements to it’s framework, GRI collaborates extensively with experts across it’s global network of diverse stakeholders from business, civil society, labor, and investors.
After a Sustainability Report is completed, an organization self-declares its Application Level. There are three Application Levels; A, B, and C. GRI Application Levels may resemble a school grading system, but they do not designate the quality of a report, the way grades signify the quality of a persons academic performance. Rather, GRI Application Levels refer to; the degree of transparency contained in a report, the level of disclosure on recognized sets of disclosures, and the quantity of content that has been included.
For example, Level A denotes advanced GRI reporting organizations, whose reports include content for all Profile Disclosures, all Disclosures on Management Approach (DMAs) and all core Performance Indicators. Level A organizations are expected to have collaborated with key stakeholders in identifying materiality issues. Organizations that are new to sustainability reporting, most often choose to begin at Level C. Level C reports include content related to a set of Profile Disclosures, at least 10 Performance Indicators and do not need to report on DMAs.
APPLICATION LEVEL CHECK (ALC)
Sustainability Reports submitted to GRI, do so voluntarily, and self-declare their Application Level. Reporting organizations have the option to choose whether to utilize GRI services to check and confirm their Application Level or to utilize a third-party for assurance. Reporting organizations requesting an ALC from GRI, are required to submit with their report, The GRI Content Index template and associated Checklist for their Application Level. Customized templates are available for reporters using Sector Supplements.
Alternatively, reporting organizations may choose to have their Application Level checked by a third-party. GRI does not endorse and is not affiliated with any third-party report assessors. An organization may choose it’s third-party assessor, and the scope of the assurance. GRI provide guidance on the six key-qualities recommended for organizations to seek in an external assurance service.
Having GRI or a third-party check a reports’ application level results in the reports’ application level (A, B, or C) being designated a (+); i.e. A+, B+, or C+. Therefore a (+) only indicates that a statement of external assurance, to a Sustainability Report published to GRI Standards, has been confirmed.
GRI REPORT REGISTRATION
GRI Reports are registered via GRI Data Partners, accessible through their website. G&A Governance and Accountability Institute, Inc. provides this service for the USA, UK and Ireland. After a sustainability report is registered with a GRI Data Partner, the report is including in GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database. This free service provides sustainability reporting organizations two significant value-added measures; global recognition, and the opportunity to utilize the database for benchmarking. It is never too late or too early for an organization to consider sustainability reporting, or to improve upon existing procedures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maya Madrigal (CBS) MBA BA is an approved Certified Business Specialist (CBS) with the Academy of Business Strategy and her specialist subject is sustainability reporting. She has achieved an MBA from Dominican University of California and a BA from University of California. She has been employed as a Business Associate, Cohort Representative, Sales Associate and Consultant for various companies and has experience within the investment, agriculture, manufacturing and retail industries. Her clients or employers have included Longsplice Investments, Micro-Angels, Teens Turning Green, Codding Steel Frame Solutions, Green MBA Hub Council, Global Mindshift, Bay Area Business Centers, Patagonia San Luis Valley Citizens Alliance. She has geographical working experience in the USA. She speaks English, Spanish and French. Her service skills incorporate qualitative and quantitative research and analysis, insight modelling and sustainability reporting.