Just Good Business : CSR Reporting Where to Start?

There are numerous international benchmarking organisations providing templates and context for sustainability/triple bottom line/CSR reporting – one of the best regarded is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
The Amsterdam-based not-for-profit organisation behind the framework aims to increase sustainability reporting globally and has free resources on its website, including standard template for producing corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. This framework sets out the principles and indicators that organisations can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance. Developed by global multi-stakeholder network of business, NGOs, academics, labour organisations and others, the GRI guidelines help organisations of any size, sector or location to measure and disclose their performance on range of key sustainability indicators. The GRI G3 Guidelines outline disclosure framework that organisations can voluntarily, flexibly, and incrementally, adopt.
The GRI’s vision is that this level of disclosure is as commonplace and comparable as financial reporting, and as important to organisational success.
As the organisation’s media spokesperson said in recent interview:
“A sustainability reporting gives company the opportunity to show how, in its thinking and actions, it is dealing with key sustainability challenges. Thus, companies that don’t provide the information that this informed and important sub-set of stakeholders seek are missing the opportunity to engage with them as investors, potential employees, suppliers, buyers or consumers.
“What you can measure, you can manage; what you can manage, you can change. The sustainability reporting process helps company better understand itself and its relationship with the wider world. This is often where the real value of the process is unlocked. It is unlocked not just through increased cost savings associated with sustainability or being more attractive to external stakeholders. It is unlocked through the better definition of corporate strategy and the identification of new markets. Understanding this often helps corporate managers see the benefits in the process.”
The cornerstone of the GRI framework is the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The third version of the guidelines – known as the G3 Guidelines – was published in 2006, and is freely available on the website (www.globalreporting.org).
Information is available on what should be included in report and why, how to set report’s boundaries, defining management approach to the report and information on what indicators might be useful. Everything can be printed out and even used as template for those starting out on this process.
More and more, investors, consumers, employees and other stakeholders are searching for information on how the companies they might interact with are responding to the challenge of sustainability. They want to know how businesses are addressing sustainability issues – and they are wary of the growing practice of greenwash, where claims and slogans are not backed up or robust. Transparent disclosure using internationally recognised guidelines, such as the GRI’s, can help organisations show how they are taking leadership on these issues and help them attract top staff, customers and other partners.
The site also contains myriad of global information on what reporting standards are adopted and where, which laws and regulations apply there and numerous examples of how and why CSR reporting is beneficial for businesses.
For example, it says, 2008 global survey from KPMG found that disclosure on corporate economic, environmental and social performance had become the norm among larger companies globally. Over 80 percent of Global Fortune 250 companies disclose their sustainability performance in sustainability or corporate responsibility reports.
The KPMG survey also looked at the largest hundred companies by revenue in 22 countries and found that overall uptake of sustainability reporting was 45 percent.
“These are testing times for many companies globally. While companies need to cope with the short-term effects of the financial crisis, long-term success requires them to also address the now irreversible realities of global warming, resources scarcity, and demographic change. It’s therefore encouraging to see the majority of large companies globally providing data on how they’re doing this,” Ernst Ligteringen, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative, said of the results.

For more information: ­​www.globalreporting.org

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