How GRI Incorporates Stakeholder Engagement into Framework Development

This post is part of a series on Stakeholder Engagement sponsored by Jurat Software.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is probably the world’s most widely-used reporting framework for tracking and reporting non-financial performance. GRI’s fourth revision, the G4 framework, is due for release in 2013 and GRI has engaged 10 stakeholder companies in the development of the guidelines.

The Consortium members will include Alcoa, Enel, GE, Goldman Sachs, Natura and Shell, who will advise during the next two years, along with the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Nelmara Arbex, GRI’s deputy chief executive stated:

We might invite one or two other companies as global sponsors. We also will invite organizations to become regional sponsors of G4 and promote local discussions. Particularly in Brazil, U.S., Australia, India and China. A few other regions might come to complete the list.

GRI has always integrated stakeholder engagement into its framework development and G4 is not going to be any different. In comparison to G2, G3 guidelines became more precise with greater emphasis on the materiality principle. According to GRI,

Materiality for sustainability reporting is not limited only to those sustainability topics that have a significant financial impact on the organization.  Determining materiality for a sustainability report also includes considering economic, environmental, and social impacts that cross a threshold in affecting the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

G3 offered stakeholders the change to weigh in on defining topics which were important for companies to focus on. G3 was then updated to become G3.1 which included improvements in the areas of human rights and gender issues. G4 will be developed with the help of several groups of stakeholders , including businesses,  labour, institutional investors, analysts, standards setters, assurance providers and NGOs.

Alcoa‘s chief sustainability officer  Kevin Anton would like to see a few enhancements to the guidelines. He said that he would like to see an addition of life-cycle assessment data that could shed light on the environmental attributes and benefits of products and services. He would also like to see the G4 framework used as a resource for supply chain-related information.

Finally Anton has said that he would the system to be easily verifiable. According to the State of Green Business report, third-party verification of non-financial information is relatively low, particularly in the US. In 2010 only 9.6% of sustainability reports produced by the S&P500 companies were verified for accuracy. Having the Big Four in the consortium obviously means that G4 can create protocols that they can provide assurance on.

The emphasis on using stakeholder engagement to boost stakeholder engagement will not be missed by many proponents of the GRI framework. After all, the best way to get the message across is to practice what you preach.

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Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

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