Sustainability reporting is growing, with GRI the global common language

Source: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), 1 December 2020

GRI has welcomed research that shows a record number of companies, spanning sectors and geographic regions, are voluntarily choosing to disclose their sustainability impacts – with the GRI Standards the most widely used for reporting. The 2020 KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting found almost all (96%) of the world’s largest 250 companies (the G250) report on their sustainability performance. For the N100 –5,200 companies comprising the largest 100 firms in 52 countries – 80% do so. 

Across all companies surveyed, the GRI Standards is the only sustainability reporting framework that can demonstrate widespread global adoption. Around three-quarters (73%) of the G250 and two-thirds (67%) of the N100 now use GRI.

The report highlights trends towards global consolidation of corporate reporting requirements, which GRI supports. What this emphasizes is that the scope of sustainability reporting must include the full range of a company’s external impacts on the world, which go well beyond financially material factors.

Eric Hespenheide, Chairman of GRI, said:  I welcome that organizations all around the world increasingly understand the importance of disclosing their impacts on the economy, the environment and society. Not only are their stakeholders demanding it, they realize that improved sustainability performance leads to more resilient and effective business practices.

This KPMG research indicates that most large and mid-sized companies are deciding that the GRI Standards provide the most effective way for them to disclose their sustainability impacts. By enabling reporting that is comprehensive and consistent, with widespread adoption, GRI offers a global common language for corporate transparency.

While the continued growth in sustainability reporting is encouraging, more needs to be done to drive up the quality and depth of disclosure. What is important is that companies apply the same rigor in communicating both sustainability and financial impacts. That is why GRI supports the mandating of sustainability disclosure, as being progressed by the EU, as well as the IFRS’ moves to ensure financial reporting reflects sustainability risks.

Other findings of the KPMG research include:

  • In 14 of the 52 countries covered, including all geographic global regions, sustainability reporting rates now exceed 90%
  • Companies applying third-party assurance to their sustainability reporting has exceeded 50% for the first time
  • Most companies disclose SDGs-related performance, yet more transparency is needed on their negative as well as positive contributions to the SDGs

The KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting has published since 1993. The 2020 edition (1 December) finds sustainability reporting by N100 companies has rapidly increased, from just 18% in 2002 to 75% in the previous 2017 survey, and 80% in 2020. Reporting rates for the G250 rose from 93% in 2017 to 96% in 2020, the highest recorded.

In October, a GRI-GlobeScan public opinion poll across 27 markets found that a record 51% of people surveyed have trust in corporate sustainability reporting.

The 2020 edition of Carrots & Sticks, the flagship resource on non-financial and sustainability reporting provisions from GRI and the University of Stellenbosch Business School, revealed a global trend of increased regulatory instruments around the world.