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4.3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and Frameworks

Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss the features of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 reporting framework.
  2. Understand how more than one reporting framework may help inform the reporting of sustainability efforts by an organization.

Voluntary frameworks or guidelines have emerged to help businesses determine how to report on their sustainability performance. These tools provide structure that can help businesses get started with sustainability reporting or help businesses that are already reporting on sustainable performance improve or expand their reporting.

There are many different sustainability reporting guidelines and frameworks for businesses to choose among. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is one of the most common and encompasses the three spheres of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. In this section, the GRI G3 Sustainability Guidelines will be discussed in greatest detail to help the reader understand the type of information in a reporting framework.

Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was started in 1997 by the NGO the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres) and today collaborates as an independent entity with the United Nations Environmental Program and the UN Secretary General’s Global Compact. Ceres developed the Global Reporting Initiative to help companies report sustainability performance in a similar way as financial information.

The GRI provides a consistent way for companies to voluntarily measure and report progress on economic, ecological, and social performance of their businesses. In 2009, 1,400 GRI based reports were registered by reporting entities.

GRI first released the guidelines in 2000, and the current version, G3, was published in 2006. The framework is continuously improved as knowledge of sustainability issues evolves and the priorities of reporters and report users change. In March 2011, GRI released the G3.1 guidelines (https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/guidelines-online/G31Online/Pages/default.aspx), which is an update and revision to the G3 guidelines.

The G3.1 guidelines provide seventy-nine performance indicators. Fifty of these indicators are “core” and twenty-nine are “additional.”

Table 4.4 GRI G3.1 Guidelines

Performance Indicator Core Additional
Economic 7 2
Environmental 17 13
Social ?
Labor practices and decent work 9 5
Human rights 9 2
Society 6 2
Product responsibility 2 5
Total 50 29

Table 4.5 Examples of Each Category of G3.1 Performance Indicator

Performance Indicator G3.1 Label Description
Economic EC1 Direct economic value generated and distributed, including revenues, operating costs, employee compensation, donations, and other community investments; retained earnings; and payments to capital providers and governments
Environmental EN3 Direct energy consumption by primary energy source
Social
Labor practices and decent work LA1 Total workforce by employment type, employment contract, and region, broken down by gender
Human rights HR2 Percentage of significant suppliers, contractors, and other business partners that have undergone human rights screening and of actions taken
Society S03 Percentage of employees trained in organization’s anticorruption policies and procedures
Product responsibility PR2 Total number of incidents of noncompliance with regulations and voluntary codes concerning health and safety impacts of products and services during their life cycle, organized by type of outcomes

Key Takeaways

  • Organizations do not need to “reinvent the wheel” when selecting sustainable performance indicators and goals; they have many reporting guidelines and frameworks to choose from and can choose to implement the standards that are most meaningful and relevant to their business operations.
  • The GRI G3.1 standard is one of the most common and comprehensive sustainability reporting protocols.

Exercises

  1. Download a copy of the G3.1 guidelines at https://www.globalreporting.org/reporting/guidelines-online/G31Online/Pages/default.aspx. Select one sustainable performance indicator (SPI) from their economic, environmental, and social category. Discuss the steps needed and type of information required to calculate that SPI.
  2. Search the web for another reporting framework related to sustainability. An example of another framework would be ISO 14000. Be prepared to discuss the features of the reporting framework.