(Published in The Financial Times of August 18, 2004).
Your article "Exchange acts to end burden of governance" (FT.com, August 16) illustrates that, even though fatigued and reticent, companies feel compelled to respond to the growing number of ad-hoc surveys seeking transparency in corporate governance and social responsibility matters. The pressure shows that the growing interest in environmental and social balance sheets is a sign of our times and here to stay, and the London Stock Exchange is to be commended for recognising the issue.
Its single survey initiative could relieve its clients’ stress as well as providing the LSE with a foothold in an emerging market for services aimed at oiling this growing information exchange. However, on their own these technological services can only provide a band-aid solution. A minimal degree of standardisation will be needed for social, environmental and economic accounting to become a practical, transparent, comparable and mature practice.
The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-profit partnership involving business, accounting and civil society and exists to evolve a standardised framework for triple bottom line reporting. The number of companies stating their use of the GRI guidelines has grown rapidly and has recently exceeded the 500 mark.
At times where market actors and stakeholders are exploring the materiality of these issues the LSE, and others aiming to offer facilitating services, would be advised to support the GRI’s mission of evolving a solid standardisation that can underpin the growing need for information exchange.
Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative, 1016 DT Amsterdam, The Netherlands