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G4 Guidelines, Meet GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

The SSC Team August 23, 2016 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

The Global Reporting Initiative expects to soon unveil the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, improving how the G4 Guidelines, adopted in 2013, are reported.

The G4 Guidelines were an improvement on the previous reporting guidelines, helping provide more context around sustainability and push toward an integrated form of reporting on financial, social, and environmental metrics.

However, over the past three years, the G4 guidelines proved complicated, daunting, and included a number of elements that were “too often misinterpreted or inconsistently applied.”

Eric Hespenheide, interim chief executive the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and chair of Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) for GRI, recently discussed how the G4 Guidelines aren’t going away, but how the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards will help reduce complexity and increase standardization.

“GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards is the latest step in the evolution of the guidelines, aimed at enhancing the credibility and adoption of the standards around the world. The new modular structure will allow the standards to be kept more up-to-date and aligned with international instruments in the future. To keep pace with developments in reporting practices or regulation, the new structure will enable additional sustainability topics to be added, with greater ease,” Hespenheide said.

The G4 Guidelines – including the data required to create a GRI report – aren’t changing (“This isn’t G5,” Hespenheide said.), but the modular formatting will help companies more clearly and accurately report on material topics in a way that is comparable across industries, and will allow flexibility when adding or changing specific reporting areas as the field evolves.

Ideally, by continually improving the standards AND making the reporting tool and methodology modular and more accessible, more and more organizations will begin producing GRI reports, pushing companies more toward credible, standardized sustainability reporting.

Contact us to talk about how your company can join leading organizations in producing a sustainability report following the G4 Guidelines. o

Sustainability Regulation and Reporting Refinement: More of Everything in 2016

The SSC Team April 12, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

From the Paris Climate Talks to changes in the GRI, we keep seeing the needle move toward regulation and refinement in sustainability reporting. We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, sustainability reporting is no longer optional.

Companies that aren’t aligning their strategy around sustainability now are soon going to be left in the dust – or maybe even taken to court as governments are increasingly enacting legislation that requires companies to report on sustainability factors.

Here are three solid examples of this trend, and three good reasons that every organization should be collecting data on sustainability for the inevitable day that the reporting becomes a business requirement.

1.     Governments: We recently wrote about the UK’s Modern Slavery Act. This is just one of dozens of national-level legal requirement cases around the globe. From Japan to Norway, governments are using laws and the courts to push toward transparency – and action – on sustainability issues.

2.     Reporting Trends: A recent article series from GreenBiz compared different environmental reporting tools – GRI vs SASB vs IR – and their various focus areas. In Part 2 of the series the author analyzes how different “sustainability topics” have shifted between the annual financial report and the sustainability report. Essentially, annual financial reports have consistently been held as required documentation to give insight into company performance. As sustainability topics become material to a company’s financial position, these topics are shifted from the sustainability report and into the annual report. Our thought: Soon sustainability as a whole will be material to investors, so you better be reporting.

3.     Reporting Framework Refinements: Has anyone looked at the new CDP reporting requirements? The days of ‘interpretation’ may be coming to a close as organizations like CDP start to require clarification and specificity in reporting impact. The most significant change in the CDPs reporting this year, in terms of data, is the reporting of Scope 2 emissions based on the new GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance. By factoring in market-based and location-based electricity information to calculate a CDP score, companies will be called out for which energy providers they choose – and will be rewarded for choosing green energy (or in some cases, building green energy into their own grid).

Sustainability reporting requirements keep on coming, pushing the field far from the bad old days of greenwashing and closer and closer to the heart of what it means to integrate sustainability into core strategic planning for lasting, long-term impact.

Partnering with an experienced consulting firm like SSC, with the background knowledge and experience, to understand legislative impact, stay ahead of reporting trends, and choose the appropriate reporting framework is crucial. Contact us today to talk about your CDP report or carbon footprint analysis. 




4 Reasons Why Corporate Sustainability Reporting Might Be a Waste of Time

The SSC Team January 13, 2015 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

As more companies are publishing annual sustainability reports, some fear that these reports are plateauing, rather than offering more value each year. Some companies are beginning to think that producing reports are not worth the effort or money. In an article published by The Guardian last week, they stated that while sustainability reports do provide useful information, they are not being as effective as they could be.

The article provided an in-depth analysis on a report published by SustainAbility, a think tank and strategic advisory firm, examining what companies can do to help make their reports… well… not as wasteful. Below are four possible ways your company’s sustainability report might be a waste of time:

Heavy Language

No one likes reading an article or a book that is plagued with dense language and phrases, and a sustainability report is no different. All too often, reports are filled with special wording to adhere to reporting standards, or they are bogged down my technical language. While certain key phrases or words are inevitable, don’t have your entire report filled with jargon that no one is going to want to sift through.

Failing to Connect with the Audience

Your company spends countless hours putting in the effort to create a sustainability report, but for who? Who exactly is the audience your company is trying aim their report at? Tying in nicely with the previous point, if your company is structuring the report to be read by customers, but instead reads like a report intended for upper level executives, you aren't going to have readership. Be sure to remind yourself while constructing your report who your intended audience is, and be sure to not lose sight of that.

Confusing Standards and Frameworks

GRI. IIRC. SASB. These are just three examples of some of the many reporting frameworks available to companies. But how is a company supposed to choose and navigate one of these frameworks? They're all different! Should your company go with a compliance-driven approach? Or maybe they should consider a principle-driven approach or a materiality focused take on a global framework. A single framework is exhausting as is, but having so many options might lead to “framework fatigue” and possibly...

Choosing the Wrong Framework

Even if your company does end up choosing a reporting framework, it does not necessarily mean that it will be a good fit for your company. If a company is using a framework that is not best suited for them, their reports could potentially leave out a lot of valuable information. For example, Novo Nordisk recently decided to no longer follow GRI standards and instead take an “integrated reporting” approach, since they determined that would best reflect how they manage their business. 

Be sure to check out our blog post exploring how sustainability reports change over time!