420 individiuals from across the globe contributed their voices to the recently concluded Structured Feedback Process (SFP). In an effort to gain feedback on many aspects of the 2002 Guidelines from a diverse array of stakeholders in all global regions GRI designed this SFP to include those organisations that report using the Guidelines and also those that use data from sustainability reports.
The SFP consisted of a questionnaire to which GRI received 112 responses. The questionnaire was statistically analysed and the results provided the basis for conversation and debate at a series of seven regional roundtables which unfolded in Brazil, South Africa, USA, Australia, Switzerland, China and Japan. GRI received nearly 900 applications for places at these roundtables but could only accept 420 attendees in total in order to ensure small break out groups and maintain a workshop-style environment for the roundtables. The third element of the SFP consists of desk research where GRI is closely analysing 80 of the most comprehensive sustainability reports that follow the GRI Guidelines.
Major consistent messages about how to improve the Guidelines that GRI heard from the regional roundtables include:
– include more guidance on the reporting process
– improve clarity and comparability by completing technical protocols for all indicators
– the Guidelines should include linkages to national/regional reporting contexts
– develop a one-stop-shop software platform to help bridge the gap between report preparers and report readers
– develop more guidance around the incremental and ‘in accordance’ approaches to reporting
– improve qualitative indicators in the social section to capture more outcome (impact) related data
– formulate options for assurance
GRI is now compiling the feedback from the seven roundtables, the questionnaire and the desk research into a final report which will be presented to the Board of Directors in May and be made public thereafter. This information will contribute to the plans for the next phase of revisions to the Guidelines, scheduled to unfold in May 2004. The upcoming revisions process aim to build on the solid technical work already achieved and will focus on improving clarity, lowering transaction costs for reporting organisations and increasing utility for sustainability information users.