Proposals on corporate social responsibility issued by the European Commission yesterday have been welcomed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
GRI has developed globally applicable guidelines for the reporting of economic, environmental and social performance. The aim is to standardise reporting of this "triple bottom line" – initially by corporations and eventually by any business, governmental or non-governmental organisation.
The GRI has been active in the recent consultation process on the European Commission’s Green Paper on Corporate Social Responsibility and in the Round Table discussions that followed.
The new Communication from the Commission was drawn up after business, trade unions, consumers, the European Parliament and a wide range of other organisations, institutions and individuals within the EU had responded to the Green Paper.
"’Triple bottom line’ reporting of economic, social and environmental indicators is emerging as good practice," the Commission says in its new Communication. "However, a greater consensus on the type of information to be disclosed, the reporting format, the indicators used and the reliability of the evaluation and audit procedure would allow for a more meaningful benchmarking and communication of companies’ performance within particular sectors and for businesses of similar size. The guidelines developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are a good example of a set of guidelines for reporting which could be the base of such consensus."
"We welcome the Commission’s comments and offer the EU our full cooperation in standardising corporate reporting on social responsibility and sustainable development," responded GRI Acting Chief Executive Allen White. "We are sure that GRI can make a valuable contribution to this process. The EU’s close interest in our Guidelines mirrors that shown in other countries around the world, including emerging economies such as South Africa and Brazil."
In September, GRI will set up its permanent headquarters in Amsterdam. For the first time ever, the world will have a permanent and effective institutional host to support sustainability reporting practices. Backed by the United Nations, GRI will bring to this important task a wealth of experience that it has built up since its inception in 1997. Its multi-stakeholder governance structure will ensure the widest acceptability and credibility. GRI is working closely with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Global Compact initiative and other UN agencies and programmes.
Today, more than 2,000 companies around the world voluntarily report on their sustainability practices. However, there are no consistent standards for the presentation, measurement and verification of these data.
To fill that gap, GRI drew up its Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, which have been field-tested by major companies. Input has come from all of GRI’s active participants, including corporations, non-governmental organisations, accountancy organisations, business associations, trade unions and other stakeholders around the world. Public comment has also been invited via the Web. The latest draft and other information on GRI are online at http://www.globalreporting.org
First published in March 1999, the Guidelines were issued in a revised version in June 2000. The 2002 version will be out in time for the World Summit on Sustainable Development – the Earth Summit – which opens in Johannesburg on 26 August.
The current draft 2002 GRI Guidelines contain already quite detailed reporting standards on economic, environmental and social impacts (including labour practices and human rights). Specific issues tackled range from biodiversity and carbon emissions to child labour, consumer health and safety and advertising.
The Guidelines are now being further refined and deepened. Accompanying them will be supplements on particular industry sectors and on a number of issues, such as diversity or productivity. In addition, technical protocols will deal with specific sets of indicators. The first three draft protocols were issued this May – on child labour, on energy use and on water. These too are available for public comment on the GRI website.
GRI is uniquely well placed to promote transparent, comparable reporting of economic, environmental and social impacts within the global market.