GRI believes that better business decisions can be made by leveraging sustainability reporting information. With four new strategic priorities to enable transparency, informed decision making and trust, GRI takes its next big leap forward as a leader in sustainability reporting.
Michael Meehan is the Chief Executive of GRI, an international independent organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate the impact of business on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption and many others. With thousands of reporters in over 90 countries, GRI provides the world’s most trusted and widely used standards for sustainability reporting and disclosure. Michael has been a chief executive, entrepreneur, and advisor in technology and sustainability for almost 20 years and has advised multinationals and governments around the world, including the White House, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and the California State Senate. Michael was voted one of the "Top CEOs to Follow" by BusinessWeek magazine and is the inventor of several clean technology patents. He has led several companies as CEO around the world, focused on the intersection of technology, sustainability, and innovation.
Why has GRI chosen to expand the scope of sustainability reporting in 2015?
The ways in which organizations and stakeholders use sustainability reporting to inform decision making have been expanding since GRI pioneered the process back in the year 2000.
Today, companies use sustainability reporting information in more ways than ever before. Our new strategy reflects our belief that even more value can be captured from this process as a means for organizations to engage with stakeholders and address the sustainability challenges at hand.
Why has GRI moved from a reporting framework to a platform for decision making?
GRI has always been a platform for organizations to understand, manage and communicate their sustainability impacts to stakeholders. The value in the reporting process leads to transparency of information, better decision making and ultimately trust in businesses, governments and other organizations.
We want information from the sustainability reporting process to be more accessible, comparable and available in real-time, so that it can be used to inform all kinds of decisions. Our new strategy is about catalyzing a future where organizations begin moving beyond sustainability reports and draw sustainability into the heart of operational decision making.
Can you expand upon why trust is such an important part of enabling smart policies?
Smart sustainability policies are an essential first step in addressing the major challenges facing business and society. There needs to be a way for organizations to make positive contributions to issues like climate change, human rights and corruption.
But then what? How can governments, policy makers, and even citizens trust that businesses are doing so?
This is where GRI can help. It’s easier to trust when there is verifiable information available. Sustainability reporting is an important means by which organizations build trust, through transparency and better decision making.
How does GRI plan to capture more value from the sustainability reporting process?
We plan to do this by focusing on four strategic priorities.
First, we plan to support governments and policy makers by Enabling Smart Policy on sustainability. Twenty-seven countries already use GRI-based policies and look to us for guidance. One important example of how we collaborate with countries would be how we help developed countries invest millions of dollars in sustainable development activities in emerging markets. We also have long-standing collaborations with more than 20 international organizations. We plan to continue working with those organizations to help catalyze a more sustainable economy and world.
Our second strategic priority is building our global community of More Reporters and Better Reporting. We will continue to focus on GRI training and knowledge sharing activities and strive for better quality reporting. By promoting the reporting process among small and medium-sized businesses, we will encourage organizations that don’t already report to do so. All of this will enable companies to have better decision making data available.
Moving Beyond Reports is GRI’s third priority. These initiatives will help the increasingly diverse range of users to use sustainability information in more innovative ways.
Finally, Innovation and Collaboration will be the launch pad for new frameworks, organizations, policies and careers, based on GRI’s standards. I look forward to sharing more information as we roll out new programs for each strategic priority.
Why does GRI believe transparency will be a catalyst for change?
Transparency is already a catalyst for change. Thousands of organizations in 90 countries use GRI to engage with stakeholders, be more transparent, make better decisions, and build trust.
Take for example, the “Behind the Brands” campaign. Oxfam used sustainability reporting information to challenge the ‘Big 10’ food and beverage companies to take part in a race to the top to improve their social and environmental performance.
Or . . . the Guardian Sustainable Business Hub and other media outlets using sustainability data to inform business coverage.
Yet another example of transparency being a catalyst for change would be the formation and management of The Global 100 Index of the most sustainable corporations in the world.
The concept of transparency in business is here to stay and part of doing business in an interconnected world.
What types of resources has GRI committed to enable this expanded vision?
Our entire organization is committed to the expanded vision of GRI.
This includes our core members, as well as, regional hubs and global community. There are thousands of trained practitioners, reporters, and international organizations all committed to our vision of implementing transparency, committed to the four new strategic priorities.
Enabling Smart Policy and More Reporters and Better Reporting are initiatives we have worked on for many years. We will intensify the work we are doing in these two areas, Moving Beyond Reports and Innovation and Collaboration. In this space, we will pool resources and draw on our global community’s expertise.
To support those efforts, we have initiated a program with our Corporate Leadership Group on Reporting 2025. In addition, there are programs being developed with some of the world’s leading technology companies to leverage IT and big data, all geared at making sustainability reporting data more accessible to businesses and their stakeholders to inform decision making.
How does the relationship with WBCSD and the UN elevate sustainability reporting and transparency to the next level?
We empower decision making related to policy and international agreements, to enable small, medium and large enterprises to strengthen competitiveness, while demonstrating respect for climate change and human rights and other important sustainability issues. GRI is currently working with UNGC and WBCSD to produce business guidance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to explore new developments in the sustainability landscape.
How can companies learn more about becoming more transparent, enabling smart policies, and improving their sustainability reporting?
There are a number of ways that companies can get involved in sustainability reporting and supporting transparency efforts.
Leveraging the GRI Standards and having internal discussions about transparency will enable organizations to better understand, manage, and communicate their sustainability impacts internal and external to the company.
GRI’s Organizational Stakeholders are the core of GRI’s global community. Companies interested in helping to drive change can also be part of one of the Corporate Leadership groups, where topics include ideas about the future of sustainability and integrated reporting. More information can be found at: www.globalreporting.org