UNEP and GRI launch new reporting tool to encourage greater disclosure in the financial sector

Source: Global Reporting Initiative, 21 October 2008

Banks, insurers and asset managers, struggling to rebuild battered reputations after the financial turmoil of 2008, will benefit from a new environment and social reporting standard launched today, claims a senior United Nations official.

The United Nations Environment Programme, through their Finance Initiative partnership with 180 financial service institutions worldwide, joined with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to develop the reporting standard over a five-year period. GRI is the developer of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework which covers critical indicators of economic, environmental and social performance for companies and other organisations. Some sectors, such as the financial services sector, face unique needs that require specialised guidance in addition to the universally applicable core GRI Guidelines.

“We are proud that UNEP and the financial institutions we partner with have been a key driver in developing this set of indicators for the global financial services community to disclose their environmental and social track record, " explained Sylvie Lemmet, Director, UNEP Division for Technology, Industry and Economics." The standard is of great relevance in today’s world where disclosure and transparency is considered a key responsibility of financial institutions. The launch of the Supplement is timely and presents a concrete way for financial institutions to report on their corporate responsibility”, added the UNEP Director.

The working group pulled together sustainability reporting expertise from 28 financial institutions, asset managers and insurers, amongst them large, global players such as Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank DWS, Bank of China, Westpac Banking Corporation, Insurance Australia Group and State Street Corporation. At the same time the working group involved report users such as rating agencies and non-governmental organisations.

“This collaboration between GRI and UNEP FI has proved extremely fruitful in bringing together a wide range of leaders from banking, campaigning NGOs and trade unions. The resulting guidance will serve as a crucial point of reference to the sector at this time of change and beyond,” said Sean Gilbert, Director of Sustainability Reporting Framework at GRI.

The Supplement’s development included the drafting of the indicators and a subsequent practice-testing and revision of the first draft. At several stages of the process, the work of the group has been made available for public comment and attracted a large amount of feedback, demonstrating the high interest in sustainability reporting of the financial community. Given the current lack of detailed reporting guidance on the sustainability performance of financial products and services, UNEP FI and GRI expect that the indicators will become the future standard for sustainability reporting in the financial sector.

The supplement is available to download at: www.unepfi.org