Timely Insights & Perspectives on Corporate Sustainability, Responsibility & Citizenship

CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS ARE ALREADY USING THE GRI STANDARDS BEFORE THE 2018 DEADLINE — As G4 Is “Retired” the New Standards Will Be Required For Corporate Reporting

August 31, 2017

Issue 1.9

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world’s most used framework for corporate sustainability / responsibility / citizenship reporting.

The first generation of the framework was launched in 1999-2000 (the “G1”), which evolved over time through a multi-stakeholder process shaping G2, G3, G3.1, G4, and on to become today’s GRI Standards.

After July 1, 2018, corporate and other reporters adopting the GRI approach to disclosure and reporting will need to comply with the GRI Standards. Select Corporate Sustainability Leaders are already there…

Prepared August 31, 2017

What you need to know about the Standards:

The GRI Standards, GRI CEO Tim Mohin explains, are a set of 36 inter-related standards that are designed to address [reporting organizations’] impacts on the economy, the environment, and society.

And in turn, the Standards serve to define what these impacts may be (negative or positive in nature) on sustainable development worldwide.

Corporate reporters will find differences as they adopt the Standards between: (1) reporting requirements (2) recommendations for reporters and  (3) guidance provided for reporters.

The new Standards are a common language, CEO Mohin tells us, developed through a long process in a modular format. That way the module or modules can be updated and amended without the entire set of Standards being modified (as was the case for the evolvement of the G1-to-G4 frameworks).

The GRI Standards will over time closely align more with the Sustainable Development Goals (17 goals with 169 targets), As the SDGs were launched, GRI and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) collaborated to develop the SDG Compass to help corporate and institutional reporters understand the alignment of the SDG umbrella goals and their individual targets underneath in the context of their G4 reporting.

This effort continues (as we explain in another Top 10 shared perspectives this month) with the development of the Analysis of The Goals And Targets (“Final Draft” available now, Final Copy coming in September), the coming Handbook (to be published later in 2017) and other guidance for reporters.

We need to keep in mind that the GRI organization – staff and many external
stakeholders – collaborate with other organizations focused on corporate sustainability reporting.

These include the UNGC, the IIRC, CDP, and the global ISO (the Switzerland-based global standards organization); and, GRI will be working with SASB on a comprehensive mapping exercise of the two standards.

Call these efforts “harmonization” to help address the issue constantly raised by ESG analytics firms, ratings and rankings providers, asset owners and managers, and the corporate sector: more standardization and comparability is needed as sustainable & responsible & impact investing become a more mainstream approach in the capital markets.

Revising The Standards

As we approach the 2018 deadline for companies and
institutions to adopt the Standards for their sustainability
reporting, we are presented with two immediate updates
to two GRI Standards Modules. GRI released Exposure Drafts of each for external review and response:

  • GRI 303 addressing Water issues (the consideration is about “effluents” from GRI 306, Effluents and Waste);
  • GRI 403, Occupational Health and Safety (updating the content).

The comment period for submissions on these two to the GRI’s new Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) is October 9, 2017.

Also in the “date to be determined” category, reviews and possible updating of these Standards modules are in the works:

  • GRI 201 – Economic Performance (possibly looking at adjustments related to “tax” and “payments to governments” and calling for new disclosures);
  • GRI 306 – Effluents and Waste (note that content will be considered during review of GRI 303)
  • Human Rights-related Standards; This could include a review of multiple Standards, such as GRI 404 – Child Labor; GRI 409 – Forced and Compulsory Labor; GRI 412 – Human Rights Assessment. It is possible that Standards could be merged or restructured.

These initiatives demonstrate the flexibility of the new GRI Standards, which can be amended in various ways within a module, or related modules, to meet the need for reporting on emerging issues or clarify the Standard for reporters and users.

GSSB – THE STANDARDS BOARD

The 15-member Global Sustainability Standards Board
(GSSB) is the body responsible for setting and updating the Standards. The members represent a broad range of stakeholder interests: business enterprises, the
public sector, investment institutions, stock exchanges, labor, mediating institutions, and civil society organizations.

They are drawn from France, Australia, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium (2 members), India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States of America (5 members).

The USA members are: Evan Harvey, Director of CR, NASDAQ; Daniel Ingram, VP- Responsible Investment Research & Consulting, Wilshire Associates; Dr. Kenton Swift, Professor of Accounting, University of Montana; Jorge Daniel Taillant, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Environment; and Julia Wilson, Director of Global Responsibility & Sustainability, Nielsen.

The Transition for G4 Reports to the Standards 

G&A Institute is the Data Partner for the United State, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (an E.U. state). In this role (which is pro bono) our team collects, analyzes and databases important information from each report.

Elements of this data are being made a part of the GRI’s global database and applied to the Big Data resources of G&A Institute.

G&A conducts a number of research efforts using the comprehensive data sets and other information that we collect in the Data Partner effort (which yields about 1,500 reports annually), and that is derived from the research and consulting work we do for our corporate and investment community clients.

We have designed services and resources to help present G4 reporters to transition to the GRI Standards, and for those companies new to GRI
reporting to begin their reporting with the new GRI Standards. Ask us about details for your company.

We have a year-long research effort coming to a conclusion shortly; our analyst team has examined more than 1,500 [GRI G4] corporate reports to determine “least to most” in importance as material elements of the
individual company reports, and we’ll be sharing highlights with you very soon.

Of significance: this will include information about company adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Louis Coppola, Co-Founder, and EVP of the Institute is the architect of our ongoing research efforts and collaboration with key third parties. He is the point person for the GRI Data Partner work as well.

Update For You on Corporate Adoption of the GRI Standards

While the GRI Standards officially become the means of reporting for companies in January 2018, we are seeing companies using the Standards right now. There are more than 100 U.S. large-caps / multinationals that have used the Standards for their current reporting.

Here is a sample of the roster, and the news broadcast by the individual companies as they moved beyond G4 and released their GRI Standard report:

Aflac 3blmedia.com/News/Aflac-Unveil-2016-Corporate-Social-Responsibility-Report
Air
Products
www.gasworld.com/air-products-sustainability-report-shows-progression-/2013108.article
CA
Technologies
www.ca.com/us/company/sustainability-report-2017.html
Cabot
Corporation
www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170711005280/en/Cabot-Corporation-Shares-Sustainability-Progress-Release-2016
Caesars Entertainment caesarscorporate.com/about-caesars/reports/
Comerica www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/comerica-publishes-corporate-responsibility-report-300498438.html
Experian
www.experianplc.com/media/3126/experian-cr-report-2017.pdf
Farmer Brothers Company www.wireupdate.com/2017/07/11/farmer-brothers-releases-annual-sustainability-report/
Hess
Corporation
www.hess.com/sustainability/sustainability-reports/sustainability-report-2016#1
Hess
Corporation
www.hess.com/sustainability/sustainability-reports/sustainability-report-2016#1
IBM – International Business Machines www.4-traders.com/international-business-ma-4828/news/international-business-machines-ibm-releases-2016-corporate-responsibly-report-24815543/
J+J Flooring Group www.floordaily.net/flooring-news/jj-publishes-fifth-sustainability-report
Marathon Oil www.marathonoil.com/lov2016/
Marshalls www.marshalls.co.uk/documents/reference/ungccopreport2016.pdf
Novus www.novusint.com/sustainability
Pearson www.pearson.com/corporate/sustainability.html#3bl
Sysco www.nasdaq.com/press-release/sysco-releases-corporate-social-responsibility-report-20170705-01089
U.S. Dairy Community www.usdairy.com/sustainability/reporting/us-dairy-sustainability-report
Virgin
Media
www.edie.net/news/7/Gift-of-the-GIFs–Virgin-Media-unveils–highly-shareable–sustainability-report/

 

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