COP 21: A Catalyst to Move Beyond Reports

COP 21: A Catalyst to Move Beyond Reports

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Friday, November 27, 2015 - 9:00am

CAMPAIGN: Beyond Carbon, Beyond Reports

CONTENT: Article

Climate change involves business risks and opportunities beyond carbon and energy, including human rights, resource constraints, biodiversity and many others. As the world’s focus turns to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties next week and the need for a crucial international binding agreement on climate change, we’re looking ahead to the developments in sustainability reporting which will enable businesses across the world to take action. 
Events such as the recent UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, and the upcoming COP 21 in Paris put corporate responsibility and transparency in firm focus. KPMG has just released their biennial report on Corporate Responsibility Reporting ahead of COP 21, with some persuasive findings. The report focuses on the quality of carbon reporting among the world’s largest 250 companies, and the bottom line is this: businesses are disclosing information, but consistency and comparability of this information is lacking.

The future of reporting
The growing trend for companies to include more corporate responsibility information in annual financial reports is driven by two factors, according to KPMG: the demand from shareholders to enable a deeper understanding of a company’s risks and opportunities, and the requirements issued by stock exchanges and governments for companies to report on corporate responsibility data. The report states that as carbon reporting requirements increase, stakeholders, including investors and regulators will demand more transparency on corporate carbon performance. Or as Wim Bartels, partner with KPMG in the Netherlands and Global Head of Sustainability Reporting and Assurance, put it: “All stakeholders should be able to access good quality, comparable information on a company’s carbon performance quickly and easily from the company’s annual financial or corporate responsibility reports.”

This is just the beginning. As the architect of the world’s non-financial information, GRI is using its expertise, its partnerships and its trusted reputation to transform the way businesses, governments and other stakeholders use this information to make better decisions. The world needs real-time, high quality and comparable data to empower sustainable decisions in every organization. Moving beyond the sustainability report itself and liberating this information is one of GRI’s four strategic priorities announced earlier this year.

Globally accepted sustainability reporting standards
A key finding from the KPMG report is the need for better quality reporting which adheres to a standard. According to the report “CR information continues to often be given limited space in annual reports, in the absence of the consistent application of relevant CR principles such as the materiality of issues included.”

This finding reinforces a strategic priority of the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), responsible for the development and approval of GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards): the need for a common global language through which environmental, social and economic impacts of organizations can be communicated and understood. The timely transition to reporting standards provides this common language, with thousands of organizations across the world already using the GRI G4 Guidelines which will form the basis of GRI Standards.  

GRI Standards and the information from the sustainability reporting process are designed to be used by businesses in all sorts of new and exciting ways. Eric Hespenheide, Chair of the GSSB commented: “The transition to GRI Standards is designed to enhance the global comparability, usability and quality of sustainability information. GRI Standards will provide tremendous benefits to businesses, governments and stakeholders and can be specifically tailored to an organization’s needs, including its use in their business plans and strategies as well as allowing for flexibility in reporting options and formats.”

#ClimateAction: the greatest challenge of our time
As the world’s leaders gather in Paris next week, GRI will be focused on ensuring businesses take a holistic view of climate change and understand the connections with other sustainability challenges.

GRI is holding two events at COP 21: Climate risk, data and decision making for business and governments (a closed event), and Spotlight on Climate Change, Human Rights and Sustainable development – role of BusinessTeresa Fogelberg, GRI’s Deputy Chief Executive, will also speak at the 6th Annual Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15), hosted by UNEP Climate Action. 

GRI is committed to supporting organizations to move beyond reports and is harnessing data and technology to ensure better quality information is used to inform all types of decision making. Businesses are taking action. But a transformational effort is required by all actors to unlock the real value of this information.

Follow all our coverage of the COP 21 developments on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn, as well as our news pages. 

CATEGORY: Environment