GRI is an organic response to the sustainability dialogue in that it began as an informal network, is allied with other international programs, and is a continually evolving framework. Over time it has matured until it is now the pre-eminent guideline for reporting sustainability performance across a wide array of dimensions. It seeks to standardize reporting to enable accurate assessment of any participating organization. That said, it does not mandate performance, only a standard way of reporting. It recognizes that sustainability leadership must come from the top and that different types of organizations have different needs, interests, priorities and constraints.
This Reporting Guidelines Reference Sheet provides an excellent overview of profile and performance information which organizations submit, and can be used as a support tool to guide engagement discussion. If you do elect to report your sustainability performance using GRI guidelines you have the option to provide a copy of the report to GRI, register the report with GRI thereby allowing data to be included in the global database, and to ask GRI to check the self-rating score you have applied.
Allowing data to be shared via the global database increases the knowledge base of all practitioners and informs the continued development of sustainability.
In addition to overall reporting standards, GRI is on course to develop industry specific supplements. This will allow meaningful analysis and definition of best practices within an industry segment and offer particular value to those participants. Industry segment supplements are currently available for the Electric Utilities, Financial Services, Food Processing, Mining & Metals, and NGO segments. Supplements are currently under development for the Airport Operator, Construction and Real Estate, Event Organizer, Media, and Oil & Gas segments. Other segments are currently in the pilot stage.
In many ways GRI mimics the model used by the Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE), drawing from operators around the globe to share openly. In OSCRE’s case the effort is to standardize information sharing and process flow within the real estate sector. In GRI’s case the goal is to provide a standardized rigor to reporting and ranking sustainability performance, thereby increasing the quality of information available and elevating performance. In both cases the model is voluntary, participatory and beneficial on a wide basis.