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31 Tips for Writing a GRI G4 Report

Elaine Cohen
Elaine Cohen | Wednesday September 18th, 2013 | 0 Comments

A version of this piece was originally published on the CSR Reporting blog.

GRI report

Those of you who have been following my Twitter account may have noticed my G4 Tip of the Day (using the Twitter hashtag: #UG4) published over the last month or so. Here, in a convenient, one post format, is a recap of all the 31 tips in this “G4 on Twitter” month. (I had to shorten a few to make them tweetable, below are the full versions). But, before you go to the tips, here’s something else I wanted to mention:

Understanding G4 can help you navigate G4 with relative ease. I’d be happy to spend a day with you talking about it and sharing my insights, working approaches and recommendations. In fact, that day is October 22, in Londonwhen I will be conducting the first Understanding G4 Master Class, an intensive G4 day, in which I walk a small group through the paces of G4.

If you can make it, please register soon, as numbers are limited to 25 to enable enough time for good discussion and learning, with current examples of reporting practice.
If you would like to join me and other potential G4 fans, please register here (Send me an email or DM me on Twitter for a discount code). And yes, ice cream is on the menu.
Now, here’s a recap of this month’s G4 tips.
  1. You can’t write a G4 report with a G3 mindset. Make the shift to G4. It’s a different paradigm.
  2. G4 recommends including at least 3 years of data when responding to indicators (Implementation Manual, page 71).
  3. “Accountability strengthens trust between the organization and its stakeholders. Trust, in turn, fortifies report credibility.”  (Implementation Manual, page 10)
  4. Specific Standard Disclosure G4-EN2 includes a methodology to calculate the percentage of recycled input materials.
  5. Total energy consumption in G4 should be reported in joules or multiples.
  6. G4-33 requires reporting of whether senior executives are involved in seeking assurance for the organization’s sustainability report.
  7. G4-52 is a new disclosure required at “In Accordance” Comprehensive Level and requires a description of the process for determining remuneration.
  8. Remember that each word is important in a G4 Sustainability Report. Somewhere, there is a stakeholder who might read it.
  9. G4 reports may be shorter than G3 reports. Or longer. Or the same length. Your materiality process will decide.
  10. Did your Board read your Sustainability Report? Ever?  G4-48 asks you to spill the beans (In Accordance, Comprehensive Level).
  11. Only go for In Accordance G4 Reporting at Comprehensive Level if you have very robust governance disclosures.
  12. G4 reporting is not a race and not a competition. Going slow, and doing it with integrity, is more important.
  13. Sustainability reports published after 31 December 2015 should be prepared in accordance with the G4 Guidelines.
  14. G4-1 disclosure – CEO statement – includes reference to “key events, achievements, and failures during the reporting period.”
  15. It is possible, but not recommended, to produce a G4 Sustainability Report with one material issue.
  16. Readers of G4 Sustainability Reports must know what to expect. More forest. Less trees.
  17. In a G4 Sustainability Report, material issues should smack you in the face. If they don’t, it’s not G4.
  18. G4 does not require companies to list the awards they have received. But, go for it anyway.
  19. G4-12 is a simple disclosure: Describe the organization’s supply chain. Piece of cake? Maybe not.
  20. G4-EN18 requires GHG emissions intensity ratio. Pick your normalization factor carefully and be consistent.
  21. Read my book, Understanding G4, before you even start thinking about writing a G4 Sustainability Report.
  22. Engage your Top Team in the selection of material issues for your G4 Report. The CEO must sign off.
  23. G4 Reporting is about ownership and accountability, not about how many boxes you can tick.
  24. Probably best not to select more than 200 Material Aspects for your G4 report. Otherwise it will take you more than a year to write it. Less is more.
  25. Transition from G3 to G4 with consistency. But remember the objective is G4, not G3 plus new bits. 
  26. Go for CORE unless you have a really good reason to go COMPREHENSIVE with your first G4 Sustainability Report.
  27. Embedding good reporting process is the key to G4. Bluffing doesn’t work all that well.
  28. Don’t try to be In Accordance with G4 if you can’t be. Better to “refer” to G4 and transition when the time is right.
  29. Don’t expect your stakeholders to praise you for your G4 report. Acknowledgement is also good.
  30. A G4 report is hard work. Don’t be deceived by it’s slick looks. You have to invest.
  31. This is the last G4 Tip for this month. It’s a short tip. Read all the G4 Tips again and then, just do it!

Good luck with your G4 Reporting. With so many useful free tips, you have absolutely nothing to fear :-)

See you in London in October?

Elaine Cohen is a CSR Consultant and Sustainability Reporter, founder/manager of Beyond Business Ltd and author of the CSR Reporting Blog.

[image credit: revedavion: Flickr cc]


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