GRI Training – A Newbie Reporter’s Impressions

The following post kicks off a new series on 3p about the global reporting initiative and is part of a promotion for our upcoming GRI certified courses in sustainability reporting.

By Dawn Kelly

People learn of sustainability through a variety of sources, progressive friends, business practices, supply chain networks, universities. For me, it was through translation. I was first exposed to the GRI framework when I translated the inaugural sustainability report for CBMM, a Brazilian company that I have enjoyed a long professional relationship with as a translator. CBMM mines niobium, a highly sought after element that is used principally as an alloying agent to make strong, lightweight steel for specialized applications. I’ve always considered CBMM living proof of corporate responsibility in ways big and small, from initiatives to ensure all workers own their homes, to exemplary environmental remediation, to sponsoring plant and animal nurseries for the protection and dissemination of native species, among many others.

As I translated page after page of the report I was amazed to see that there was a standardized, recognized means for organizations to show what they are doing to make the world a better place (yes, still idealistic after all these years…). I immediately sought more information from the GRI site—not least to divine the abundant specialized vocabulary—and felt that I had found a path that would allow me to use a disparate skill set in a productive, meaningful way. However, instead of translating completed reports, I was determined to play a role in creating them.

In short order I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that for Bucyrus International as they set out to produce their inaugural GRI-based sustainability report. Working hand in glove, although remotely, with the US-based director of global communications and taskmaster extraordinaire, Shelley Hickman, the GRI guidelines came to life and provided the guidance necessary to not only produce the report but importantly, help lay the groundwork for the company’s sustainability program.

Even though I had had two intense experiences using the GRI reporting framework, I still felt the need to formalize my training. I searched for opportunities through the GRI site ( and found the ISOS event that was held in July in Berkeley. The two-day course was just what I needed to gain a better understanding of the framework and the reporting process, especially since I was still flummoxed by the terminology and grappled with understanding certain concepts. Frankly, I found them to be far from intuitive but over the course of the two days the pieces began to fit together and I gained a more natural understanding of the components of the framework, which was aided by hands-on exercises using published sustainability reports.

However, the most beneficial aspects of the program were not part of the syllabus. Foremost was the opportunity to hear other participants’ stories, professionals from a wide range of fields and diverse organizations discussing plans, challenges and rewards related to sustainability. This was a valuable experience for me, largely because it was a vivid illustration of the interest (and action) around the topic. Another significant benefit was the exposure to a wealth of resources, all of which were generously shared with participants. Perhaps this latter also qualifies as a drawback since I now have a long list of high-quality material to review, adopt or adapt. I suppose it could be worse.

I have no doubt that I am better prepared to fully implement the GRI guidelines now. I am heartened to know that there are individuals and organizations committed to identifying and ameliorating their impacts and that sustainability reporting is a practice that is here to stay.

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