Introducing the GRI Readers’ Choice Awards Readers to identify the best sustainability reports world wide

Source: GRI, 29 August 2007

Thousands of companies issue sustainability reports each year – but who reads them? What do these readers think of reports? Do reports meet the needs of communities, investors, employees, customers, journalists, and non-governmental organizations?

The GRI Readers’ Choice Award was designed to find answers to these questions and give all sustainability report users worldwide a voice on sustainability reporting today.

After extensive preparations by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and their partners – all leaders in the field – the first world wide online sustainability reporting awards scheme is close to launch. Mark your calendar for 1 October 2007.

The GRI network pioneered the Readers’ Choice Award concept as a way to capture the preferences of readers, but also as a way to alert potential new readers to the value of sustainability information available to them today. "The award will draw attention to the fact that sustainability reporting complements traditional reporting by offering shareholders and stakeholders’ insight into sustainability as one of the most burning issues of our times." Said Mervyn E. King, Chair of the GRI Board of Directors. The Board approved the concept at their May meeting.

KPMG and SustainAbility, the leading global sustainability reporting trend monitors, will conduct a survey in conjunction with the award and publish their cutting edge analysis of the results next year. "The survey will give better insight into the identity and views of sustainability report users around the world" says Wim Bartels, Partner at KPMG. "What’s exciting for us is the opportunity to facilitate readers – employees, communities, NGOs, management, customers becoming real experts on sustainability reporting. That user feedback aspect makes this a totally new type of award program, and all the more likely to influence how companies report in the future." remarked Mark Lee, CEO of SustainAbility.

"There are other award schemes out there, but all are jury based." Says Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, former Director of UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics. "This time companies will hear a verdict – but it will be straight from the mouths of their own stakeholders." Ms Larderel is chairing a committee of prominent experts who are overseeing the design and implementation of the award system.

ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) runs the most prestigious jury-based sustainability reporting awards schemes in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. "We didn’t hesitate to take a leadership role and partner with GRI in the concept’s early days" says Roger Adams, ACCA’s Technical Director. "It’s a complementary approach, and will be a major factor in driving best practice in reporting worldwide."

In addition to an award for the report with the overall highest score, there will be awards issued based on the perspectives of key information user communities such as investors, labor, civil society, employees/management, and media; and special reports for non-corporate, smaller enterprises, and non-OECD companies.
"Developing the methodology behind the scoring system was a unique challenge for us and the other partners involved" said Jose Luis Blasco, Director, Advisory, Global Sustainability Services, at KPMG. "We had to ensure the system would be a fair representation of report readers’ perspectives, included GRI and non-GRI based reports, and produced meaningful results for the reporting organizations and their readers alike."

Both the Global Readers’ Choice Awards and the survey results will be presented during The Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency, which will be hosted by the City of Amsterdam, and is supported by the Netherlands Government, UNEP, and with the involvement of businesses, NGOs, labor, and investors active in GRI’s worldwide network. This is GRI’s second international conference, and will be held 7 – 9 May, 2008.

"While most will agree that transparency through sustainability reporting is essential in our global pursuit of sustainability, little is known about the views and experience of intended readers – the users – and how sustainability reporting influences markets and stakeholder relations" said Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative when asked what inspired the development of the Readers Choice concept over the past year.`