GRI response statement to the Center for Sustainable Organizations 21 September 2011
Photography: Squonk11 (CC License)
This month, the Center for Sustainable Organizations (CSO) announced:
GRI believes that sustainability context is vital in all reporting. This is emphasized by the Principle of Sustainability Context in GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework. GRI is committed to the continuous improvement of its Guidelines, including the Principles that underpin reporting.
CSO is calling upon GRI to enforce this most basic principle of sustainability measurement and reporting by (a) specifying procedures for how to measure and report performance in context, (b) modifying its rating guidelines so as to withhold superior ratings for reports that fail to include context, and (c) setting the proper example itself by including context in its own reports from now on.
Since GRI provides the Guidelines for organizations to follow, it should not judge the quality of resulting reports. The purpose of the GRI Guidelines is to ensure transparency so that different stakeholders can take on this role – civil society, academics and analysts.
GRI offers an Application Level Check service to companies that have produced a GRI sustainability report, which is separate from any external assurance they might seek from a third party. The Application Levels specifically measure the extent to which the GRI Guidelines have been used, and examine completeness, correctness and usability. The Principle of Sustainability Context is not examined in the Application Level Check as this would constitute a value judgment that GRI cannot make.
Application Level C means a company has reported on 10 Performance Indicators and a selection of Profile Disclosures. Application Level B means a company has reported on 20 Performance Indicators, has reported on its management approach, and has reported on all Profile Disclosures. Application Level A means a company has addressed all core Performance Indicators, has reported on its management approach, and has reported on all Profile Disclosures.
The Application Levels do not indicate the quality or accuracy of the content of a report, or the quality of a company’s sustainability practices.
GRI itself reports at Application Level A, and is committed to improve its reporting practices every year. Following stakeholder engagement, in the next reporting period GRI will follow the NGO Sector Supplement, measuring its program effectiveness and reporting its impacts on sustainability reporting worldwide.
GRI warmly invites CSO to participate in the Public Comment Period that is currently open as part of the development of the next generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, G4.
CSO’s input on sustainability context is of considerable interest for G4’s development. By participating, CSO can also play its part in the multi-stakeholder development process that involves sustainability practitioners and experts from diverse constituencies and geographical locations, ensuring the Guidelines produced reflect all stakeholders’ needs.
G4 will improve on content in the current Guidelines – G3 and G3.1 – with strengthened technical definitions and improved clarity, helping reporters, information users and assurance providers.
The results from the Public Comment Period will feed into the development process. Once the feedback has been analyzed, GRI will then begin the process of defining scope and recruiting Working Group members in December 2011. Working Group composition will be influenced by the proposed structure and content of G4.
GRI looks forward to CSO participating in the Public Comment Period, which is now open until 24 November 2011.
The text being discussed is available at