sustainable business

Sustainability Reporting Coming of Age?

Carolyn McMaster | May 31, 2010

The Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency wrapped up a couple of days ago, and the website is a source of wonky sustainability fun. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which advocates for transparent and reliable sustainability reporting and created the Sustainability Reporting Framework, produced the conference.

The event saw the release of Carrots and Sticks—Promoting Transparency and Sustainability, a study of mandatory and voluntary reporting trends worldwide produced by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), GRI, KPMG Sustainability, and the University of Stellenbosch Business School that says government will be more involved in regulating sustainability reporting.

On balance, government oversight is a good thing—and the report shows sustainability reporting is coming of age. As Wim Bartels of KPMG Sustainability said, “Sustainability is a key business issue that needs a level playing field.” Representatives of sponsoring organizations also pointed out that:

  • Regulation will result in more rigorous sustainability reporting and increased transparency, sharpen companies’ focus on their sustainability performance, and help drive professionalism and universal standards.
  • Changing market conditions, information overload, and growing public demand for accountable use of resources require credible information and new management tools for reporting.

Mandated reporting is always burdensome in varying degrees, but it also raises the bar for global standards, even for voluntary reports. It means we’re all measuring the same things the same ways, backing up claims with credible information, and using the same language.

In other news from Amsterdam, the GRI announced its 2015 and 2020 goals, including a proposal to require all large and medium-size companies to report on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, or explain why if they don’t. GRI also released proposed G3.1 revisions to reporting content, and is accepted comments from the sustainability community through August 23.


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