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For over 10 years, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has provided the most widely-used framework for producing sustainability reports, also known as ESG (environmental, social, and governance) reports. At GRI’s Amsterdam Conference last May, various speakers made it clear that ESG would and should become a mainstream practice by 2015. Now GRI is backing up its words with a new address: today the USA office opens its doors in New York City.
Dubbed the “Focal Point USA,” GRI’s new office will help increase the number of US-based companies that disclose ESG data to its shareholders. GRI’s New York staff will make it more seamless for companies to improve the quality of their corporate social responsibility (CSR, the preferred American term) reports, as well as offering American corporations an opportunity to have input on the development of new guidelines for sustainability reporting.
This is no lonely field office. For now The Conference Board, a leading business research organization, will host the GRI Focal Point USA for the first two years. GRI has also partnered with the “Big Four” accounting and professional service firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, each of which has developed a large and robust sustainability practice.
According to Mike Wallace, the GRI’s partnership with the large accounting firms, and a presence in the USA’s financial capital, should resonate with large companies that to date have dismissed the necessity for issuing ESG reports:
We already have huge iconic companies including Nike, UPS, IBM, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard, that use the GRI Framework for their sustainability reports . . . and when more companies see that the ‘Big 4’ firms have collaborated on this issue, not only executives, but their shareholders and stakeholders, will take notice.
Wallace added that 80% of both the Global Fortune 250 companies and the USA’s largest firms produced ESG reports as of 2009, but there is enormous room for growth: only 30% of the Fortune 2000 companies disclose such information in any meaningful report. That list, which already includes many iconic brands, will see its total spike the next few years.
The expansion is a smart and bold decision for its contrary action: many executives point to the global recession as a reason not to devote time and resources to sustainability reporting, but GRI’s new office will impart that now is the time to take ESG reporting seriously—and meanwhile the office in Manhattan’s Midtown East district will give the decade-old organization gravitas. No longer can GRI be dismissed as a “European organization” ensconced in a cozy Amsterdam Canal District office. Backed by some of the world’s most respected organizations, GRI will now foster the growth of sustainability reporting in North America, but could even reach its goal for 2020, full integrated reporting of ESG and financial data, even more quickly.
Ed note: our GRI certification course in sustainability reporting is filling up fast! Sign up before Friday to get discounted hotel rooms for our San Francisco event taking place November 11-12.