Sustainability disclosure guidance is on the way for media industry

Source: Global Reporting Initiative, 2 March 2009

Media sector sustainability reporting guidance will soon be in development, coordinated through a new innovative partnership between The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), AVINA Foundation Colombia, Ibero-American New Journalism Foundation (FNPI), and The Program of Journalism Studies of the Javeriana University. Research carried out by these organizations as well as interest shown by media companies has driven the establishment of this project.
This project will result in a GRI Media Sector Supplement, a tool which consists of additional guidance that will complement the GRI G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the world’s most widely-used sustainability reporting framework. The use of this Media Sector Supplement will ensure that sustainability reports by media companies more effectively cover the key issues for the sector. Comparability of reports from this sector will also be enhanced as media companies are guided to report within a more applicable, common sustainability reporting framework.

Significant sustainability issues for the sector include transparency and objectivity of the media given its massive sphere of influence, as well as labor issues in relation to wages and working conditions for journalists and actors, amongst others. Additionally, the companies distributing print media are amongst the largest purchasers of paper in the world, demonstrating that this sector also has potential to create significant environmental impacts. Reporting on some of these unique issues can be complicated without sector-specific guidance.

Ernst Ligteringen says, Chief Executive of GRI says:

“Alongside reporting on the standard operational issues such as paper use or health and safety standards, the media sector must tackle reporting on the impacts of their core business – communication to a mass audience. Obviously messages from the media regularly influence global opinion on important issues of the day. How the general public, corporations and governments respond to the media’s messages can affect the economy, the environment and ultimately the whole of society. Thus, media companies bear a huge responsibility and must be transparent about their activities. For these reasons, many media companies are interested in more specific guidance on how they can monitor their impacts and be transparent to their customers and stakeholders. GRI and these interested partners from the media world are keen to fill this gap by developing this new GRI Media Sector Supplement.”

Wendy Arenas, the representative for AVINA foundation in Colombia says:

“The Media Sector Supplement is an opportunity for the media sector, whose great influence impacts our lives and our planet, to open dialogue with many different stakeholders approaching important sustainability factors, especially that of transparency.”

The Media Sector Supplement will be developed over an estimated two year period by a multi-stakeholder Working Group using GRI’s characteristic consensus-seeking approach. The Working Group will consist of both sector and non-sector stakeholders (e.g. civil society organizations, trade unions, investors) and the participants will reflect a range of expertise and geographic regions.

GRI and the project partners are seeking interested parties to participate in the Working Group for this project. Both industry and non-industry representatives are welcome to apply. Media companies and stakeholders participating in the project will have direct involvement in the development of the reporting guidelines for this sector.