Thursday, April 26, 2012

GRI and the Canadian Government

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada supports the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The Government of Canada includes the GRI in its CSR Strategy for the Extractive Sector and recommends it for Canadian businesses large and small.

GRI is the world’s standard for measuring and reporting a company’s sustainability performance. In the period between 2009 and 2010 GRI-type sustainability reporting increased 22 percent globally. In the same time frame there was a 30 percent increase in GRI reporting in the US. Most noticeably there was a 50 percent increase in Canada. Although many Canadian companies are getting involved others are reticent.

Those who opt to forgo sustainability reporting should at least  know why. As explained by Georgina Wainwright-Kemdirim, an executive with Industry Canada’s Policy Coordination and Regulatory Affairs Branch said, “if a company decides not to report, then they could consider explaining why,” she says. “Let it be known that the company has considered reporting but for them it does not make business sense for some reason — for example, they may think it will impede competitiveness or give away proprietary information. Some of the big challenges for companies include understanding what is important for a company to report on— something GRI is working to define more clearly. Companies can also figure out what is important to report on through stakeholder engagement. Companies will soon discover that not all stakeholders are adversaries, and may, in fact, turn out to be important allies and sources of valuable intelligence.”

The benefits of measuring and reporting on social and environmental performance are both internal and external. Internally GRI supports greater efficiency and innovation, externally GRI can help enhance competitiveness.

Here are the benefits of sustainability reporting as reviewed on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada site:

Internal benefits of sustainability reporting:
  • Increased understanding of risks and opportunities
  • Emphasizing the link between financial and non-financial performance
  • Influencing long term management strategy, policy, and business planning
  • Identifying opportunities for innovative products, services and processes through streamlining, reducing costs and improving efficiency
  • Benchmarking and assessing sustainability performance with respect to laws, norms, codes, standards, and voluntary initiatives
  • Avoiding negative environmental, social and governance publicity
  • Comparing performance internally, and between organizations and sectors
External benefits of sustainability reporting:
  • Mitigating — or reversing — negative environmental, social and governance impacts
  • Improving reputation and brand loyalty
  • Improved access to global markets and supply chain opportunities
  • Enabling external stakeholders to understand company’s true value, and tangible and intangible assets
  • Demonstrating how the organization influences, and is influenced by, expectations about sustainable development
  • Improved access to capital and other financing
  • Enhanced social license to operate in the community.
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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