The sustainability community gathered in Amsterdam last week for the GRI global conference and the rollout of the G4 version of the reporting framework. Notable sustainability thinkers from around the world convened. Among those represented, members of ISO, IIRC, CDP, OECD, and many other international NGOs and policy organizations came together to debate the future of sustainable business and to discuss the implications of the latest evolution of reporting. While the debates made clear that we have a lot more work to do to get international agreement on how to achieve sustainable development, some key themes of the G4 include:
- The ABC level rubric (often mistaken for a report “grade”) has been replaced with more neutral options of “core” and “comprehensive” reporting. We think this is a good development because it should allow those who were reluctant to turn in a “C” report to move forward.
- The new framework is more focused on those indicators that are deemed material to specific industries and enterprises. This development should move us from lengthy check box reports to reports that are more concise and at the same time more meaningful.The work of harmonizing the G4 framework to other international standards is in process and some of this work is published in the new guidelines. Tracking of reporting dimensions has been mapped to the U.N. Global Principles, the U.N. Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for Multi-national Enterprises, and the IIRC exposure framework. Though not included in the initial publication, work has been done also on the ISO 26000 and this is anticipated for future publication.
- The G4 framework with its emphasis on material impacts throughout the value chain will inevitably lead to more demands for reporting through the supply chain. Though this may present initial challenges to SMEs, it also presents an opportunity for larger enterprises to help their smaller suppliers meet the demand for sustainability performance and reporting. Support in this dimension can promote not only better performance, but also loyalty.
We look forward to reporting more as we gear up to develop our G4 training curriculum this fall. For more information on the Global Reporting Initiative training and how the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship can help, please visit: www.bccc.net/GRI. Organizations can continue to employ the G3.1 framework up to two reporting cycles (or through December 31, 2015).