Three Takeaways From The 5th Annual GRI Conference in Amsterdam (May 2016)

On Wednesday, May 18th, GRI opened the first day of its 5th Global Conference titled “Empowering Sustainable Decisions”, in Amsterdam, welcoming 1,200 delegates from 77 countries.  Amsterdam is a beautiful city with old buildings, canals, bridges and more bikes than the eye can see!   Sustainability is built into the bricks and mortar that make up the city, and it’s evident everywhere from the lack of plastic, to the right of way for bikes, beautiful greenery, public transit system, and the community like feeling that you can sense among the citizens of the city.  It’s a wonderful culture, the people of the city are present in the moment (not glued to their phones as they walk around), they are in touch with their fellow members of society and they value the environment — something that we all can learn from and aspire to.

As some of you may know (or not?), New York City (which I call home) was originally named New Amsterdam when the Dutch settled the lower part of Manhattan.  There are many signs of this still left in the physical and spiritual nature of our city.  The names of many of our communities, streets, etc. still have these roots (Brooklyn comes from the Dutch Municipality of Breuckelen and some of the hipsters are reviving the original name; Harlem comes from the Dutch Haarlem).

The conference was held at the RAI center in Amsterdam — an amazing space with great plenary and breakout rooms, networking / common space, and even a small sand “beach” in the back near one of the networking drinks spaces that hosted a special GRI GOLD members networking event.  It provided the perfect setting for informative and fruitful discussions on complex topics that are becoming ever more important, sophisticated and mature in their impacts and methodologies.

People came from near and far, and I was lucky enough to meet many people that I have worked with over the years virtually — across the pond — but never got a chance to meet in person.  The discussions were filled with passion and purpose — with various viewpoints being taken into account from business, investor, government, NGOs, and other constituencies represented.

Here are three key takeaways for those of you that were unable to make the conference:

  • Data is King For Transformational Change
    The focus on data was felt throughout the conference as the attendees discussed various new technologies to utilize data, and the issues and complexities that must be addressed to realize the full value of sustainability data. Leading up to the conference, G&A Institute was a member of  “GRI’s Technology Consortium” which convened the world’s technology leaders to promote a conversation about how sustainability data and information can transform both business and policy decisions. Part of GRI’s Reporting 2025 Initiative, the Consortium, presented their top five recommendations on the future of sustainability data and innovation at the 2016 GRI Global Conference in Amsterdam.
    View the GRI Technology Consortium’s Recommendations
  • SDGs Will Power The Next 15 Years of Sustainability
    The topic of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were discussed throughout the conference.  A focus area of the discussions concentrated on how business will align with and incorporate SDGs into their sustainability strategies, goal setting, and reporting.  The SDG Compass which was developed in collaboration between GRI, UNGC, and WBCSD is a tool which helps companies to examine the SDGs in ways that they are already familiar with.  One of the most useful parts of the SDG Compass, in my opinion, is the linkages between the various commonly used reporting frameworks (including G4 Indicators, CDP Surveys, and UNGC Principles), and the underlying 169 SDG targets.  This enables companies to examine the SDG targets which are relevant to the G4 indicators they have found to be material, and are currently reporting on.
    View the SDG Compass
  • NEW GRI Standards — Get Ready for Transition from GRI G4 to GRI Standards
    The Transition to Standards project was initiated in November 2015 by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB).  The original GRI G4 Guidelines are evolving into a set of modular, interrelated GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards).  The changes mostly involve improving the structure and format of the content from G4. This is intended to make the GRI Standards easier to use and keep up-to-date, and even more suitable for referencing in policy initiatives around the world.  The GRI Standards will include all the main concepts and disclosures from G4, enhanced with a more flexible structure, clearer requirements, and simpler language.  The transition aims to make the GRI Standards more accessible for reporting organizations and policy-makers, and so encourage more consistent, higher quality sustainability reporting, focused on material issues.
    You can provide your feedback on the first set of draft GRI Standards via the consultation platform. You can also join live webinars or attend workshops around the world. To learn more, visit the Transition to Standards page.

For more information on the conference please visit the GRI Conference website:  http://www.griconference.org/

Expect more from us on these topics in the weeks to come…

If you’d like to discuss any of these takeaways in more detail, or anything else related to sustainability please feel free to contact the Institute.