The GRI’s Reporting 2025 project aims to set a course for sustainability reporting over the next decade

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has launched an international discussion with companies, NGOs and experts in other fields to map out the top sustainability issues of the coming decade and help shape the future of sustainability reporting and disclosures.

The Reporting 2025 project will produce analysis papers, articles and videos based on interviews with company executives and thought leaders on subjects ranging from data technology to business development scenarios, identifying the main issues that should be at the centre of company agendas and public reports. The result will be a roadmap for future reporting, to be published in early 2016.

“As the practice of reporting continues to mature, it’s crucial that we make sure our activities are leading to a sustainable global economy,” GRI chief executive Michael Meehan says. “This means that organisations must do more than merely produce a sustainability report. The data collected needs to empower informed decision-making, not just for management but also for other stakeholders.”

The first three interviews released by GRI cover topics including the valuation of externalities, new reporting methods and metrics, and the role of corporations. “The point is to collect insights from others about where things are headed. This is about the GRI convening an international discussion – it’s not us expounding where things should be going,” GRI media relations manager Davion Ford says.

Later this year, the Reporting 2025 team will publish the first in a series of analysis papers from the findings and will continue to release more on a quarterly basis. The findings will be compiled with the help of Boston College, which sponsors the initiative, along with Italian electric utility company Enel and German software developer SAP.

While it is not in a position to predict where Reporting 2025 is headed, the GRI has previously identified a number of places that have gaps in reporting. It has consistently called for more reporting by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which account for a large part of overall economic activity. Though GRI accepts that it is unrealistic to expect a small shop in a local community, for instance, to produce an annual sustainability report like a multinational’s, it says that some of the principles and standards could still be used in other ways.

Geographical discrepancies in reporting are another area of concern, with some developing countries lagging the US and Europe, analysts say. In general, more buy-in from governments, regulators and capital markets is desirable. Smart regulation could improve both the sustainability performances of companies over time, and the outcomes for those affected by business activities.

The overall emphasis in recent years has shifted from why organisations need to be doing sustainability reporting to what they are doing with the amassed information, Ford says. “There’s a lot of talk about sustainability reporting as an end of itself, when in fact the true jewel, as it were, is to be found drawing that process deeper into the culture at board level – and using it as a strategic tool in decision making.”

GRI is also forming a Corporate Leadership Group to allow top companies with strong backgrounds in sustainability reporting to participate in Reporting 2025. Such organisations will need to have at least three years of sustainability reporting experience and to demonstrate leadership in sustainability criteria.

“Two decades ago, no organisations anywhere reported on anything other than their financial performance,” Ford says. “Now, after a lot of work not just on our part, but also by other stakeholders, the vast majority of large organisations are fully aware of sustainability.

“The strength of our standards and the GRI reporting process is that we are encouraging organisations to be responsive to all those stakeholder groups, so it represents buy-in across the board.

cr communications  GRI  GRI Reporting  sustainability reporting 

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