Corporate Social Responsibility and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Ed note: Interested in learning more about corporate social responsibility, stakeholder engagement and sustainability reporting? Why not attend a GRI Certified training course in Austin November 17th-18th? Triple Pundit readers can still receive the Early Bird discount. SIGN UP HERE

photo by David Shankbone

By Carrie McChesney, Founder and Co-Owner, Concept Green

I’ll admit it: I’m a GRI nerd. I live, breath and teach GRI, the most widely used voluntary framework for reporting an organization’s economic, social and environmental performance. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the GRI Reporting Framework fits in with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Does GRI make a difference? And more importantly, is it making it fast enough?

We all know that Occupy Wall Street grievances vary from location to location and individual to individual, but it’s safe to say that the general beef is irresponsible, unethical corporate behavior consolidated into a dangerously small sphere of political and economic influence.

Well, before Occupy Wall Street hit global headlines and Twitter feeds, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement was quietly plugging away, pushing for greater accountability and transparency from, and engagement with, corporations. My all-time favorite CSR game changers are the CERES organization, the Carbon Disclosure Project and, of course, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

In 1999, the first year of the GRI Reporting Framework, only 11 companies published sustainability reports that referenced the GRI’s G1 reporting guidelines. Fast forward 11 years and 1,867 organizations have published GRI reports of their 2010 performance. Given institutional inertia and scale, this is rapid adoption. And while not all GRI reporters walk the talk, those that truly embrace and apply the GRI Reporting Framework have turned their organizations—and even their industries—around.

Stakeholder engagement is one of the key pillars of the GRI Reporting Framework, and I think it fits nicely with the global demand for transparent, inclusive, and responsible corporate behavior. When corporations and their stakeholders—those who are impacted by corporate behavior or those who have the ability to impact the organization (remember, it goes both ways)—interact, things change.

True stakeholder engagement isn’t just lip service. It requires open, honest, inclusive dialog to understand impacts and interdependencies, and the GRI Reporting Framework provides a roadmap for accomplishing this, not only through internal discussions, but through public dialog about an organization’s measurements, goals, plans and progress towards corporate social responsibility.

I recently heard Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons say that the most resilient systems in nature are those with the most diversity. As a GRI nerd, I immediately thought of the resiliency and adaptability of corporations. How sustainable are the corporations that ignore their stakeholders? In a post-Occupy Wall Street world, the corporations that will survive and thrive will be those that recognize their impacts and interdependencies and consider the views and perspectives of others.

Is the GRI Reporting Framework robust and agile enough to drive the rapid change demanded by so many? I think it is. What about you?


Carrie McChesney, GRI Nerd

By Carrie McChesney, Founder and Co-Owner, Concept Green. Concept Green is an ISOS Group Collaborating Partner in executing GRI-Certified Trainings in the Southwestern U.S. Join ISOS Group and Concept Green in Austin, Texas on November 17-18 for GRI Certified Training. Triple Pundit readers can still receive the early bird discount for this course. SIGN UP HERE

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