Revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Apr 6, 2016 9:30 AM ET

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious plan to change human society by addressing pressing global challenges such as hunger, gender inequality and climate change to name only a few. But the final goal, SDG 17, is more fundamental than the others, because if we fail to achieve it, we won’t be able to achieve any of the others. SDG 17 calls for the revitalization of the global partnership for sustainable development, an explicit acknowledgement that our collective ability to achieve the goals hinges upon our willingness to forge partnerships.

“SDG Target 17 is in many ways the most important,” said GRI Deputy Chief Executive Teresa Fogelberg. “The challenges laid out in the other goals can never be achieved if business, governments and civil society organizations fail to work together. At GRI we have always sought to partner with organizations that share our desire to help create a more sustainable economy and world. It’s part of our DNA.”

The specific targets detailed in SDG 17 refer to three systemic issues that need to be overcome and GRI is working on multiple fronts to accelerate progress toward the global goals by focusing on collaboration, innovation and measurement.

Policy and institutional coherence
In order to realize the SDGs, goal number 17 highlights the need to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development and GRI has taken up the call. GRI’s Policy team engages with national and international governing bodies and organizations including the United Nations, national ministries, stock exchanges and other reporting organizations around the world to enable smart policy on sustainability. Sustainability reporting is an important means of increasing coherence because it brings together disparate issues, such as water scarcity, CO2 emissions and working conditions, into one methodology so that organizations and their stakeholders can take a holistic view of the impacts of operations.

Currently, 38 national and regional governments refer to GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) in policy and 21 stock exchanges around the world follow suit. GRI has global strategic partnerships with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Global Compact. GRI Standards enjoy synergies with the guidance of the International Finance Corporation, the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 26000, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and the Earth Charter Initiative.

Additionally, to help reporters use GRI Standards with other instruments, GRI produces linkage documents to highlight the connections. This includes newly updated linkage documents between GRI and CDP Climate Change and GRI and CDP Water documents. Alongside the initiatives and frameworks mentioned above, GRI works to connect with several local frameworks for companies, self-assessment tools, and other reporting guidance.   Data, monitoring and accountability
In order for decision makers to act in pursuit of the global goals, they need robust sustainability data to inform their decisions. By encouraging companies worldwide to disclose sustainability related information, GRI enables sustainable markets to flourish, and facilitate the creation of data which governments can use to inform better decision making. Working in partnership with leading technology company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), GRI created the SDG Target 12.6 Tracker, a database which tracks progress towards the SDG Target 12.6 – the progress of sustainability reporting by companies, and sustainability reporting policies around the world.   GRI’s commitment to partnerships for sustainable development can also be seen in the SDG Compass, a tool built in partnership with UN Global Compact and World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “The adoption of the SDGs is an historic moment for our world, and business is ready to act,” said Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, when the SDG Compass was launched in 2015. “These global goals represent a growing market for companies that are able to develop and deliver relevant technologies and solutions. The SDG Compass provides critical guidance for companies to understand their responsibilities and opportunities linked to each of the global goals, ultimately to drive growth and innovation for the good of people and our planet.”   Multi-stakeholder partnerships
SDG 17 also calls for multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge to support the achievement of the goals. One of our core values is that we believe in the power of multi-stakeholder partnerships. Our global multi-stakeholder network includes thousands reporting organizations in more than 90 countries, more than 20,000 GRI-trained sustainability practitioners and 600 organizations within our GOLD Community, GRI’s core supporters and leaders in sustainability reporting.    GRI’s governance structure also embodies this multi-stakeholder approach. The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), the 15-member, independent standard-setting body responsible for developing and approving GRI Standards, is comprised of the best combination of technical expertise, diversity of experience and multi-stakeholder perspective. The same can also be said for GRI’s Stakeholder Council, the formal multi-stakeholder policy forum that advises the Board of Directors on strategic issues. "One of the reasons I joined the Stakeholder Council was to work to develop the global standard for sustainability reporting,” said Stakeholder Council Chair Helena Barton. “I really wanted to join a group of fantastic people who are practitioners in the field and to learn from all of their experiences around the world. They are the people who sit on the Stakeholder Council."   Revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development is the reason we host the GRI Global Conference. Meet and interact with members of GRI’s global multi-stakeholder network at the 5th GRI Global Conference, 18 – 20 May, in Amsterdam. Give your input to the GSSB on the development of GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards. Also meet with GRI’s Stakeholder Council during a special breakfast session. Come to the GRI Global Conference and help us move beyond reports in pursuit of the global goals.