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The Global Reporting Initiative: leading the way for corporate sustainability reporting

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Sustainability has undeniably risen up the corporate agenda in recent years, and with it has risen the reporting of organisations’ behaviour and impacts on the wider world. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world leader in the reporting of corporate sustainability.

The international, network-based, not-profit offers a comprehensive, pioneering and free-to-use Sustainability Reporting Framework. The framework includes guidelines that set out principles and standards that organisations – from businesses to NGOs – can use to report their economic, environmental, and social performance and impacts.

“GRI’s guidelines lay out a step-by-step process which allows any organisation to begin the reporting process,” explains Tuulia Syvanen, chief of staff at GRI.

“There are five stages: preparing a plan to produce the sustainability report, connecting with stakeholders, defining what content to include in the report, monitoring the relevant data and finally compiling all of this info into a sustainability report.”

More than 5,000 organisations, from all corners of the world, now use these guidelines to measure the impacts of their operations. GRI’s framework was not only the first of its kind; it is now the mostly widely used.

Wherever sustainable and responsible investment markets grow, the GRI is never far away. Australia’s recent awakening, for example, has seen the number of organisations down under adopting GRI guidelines double in the past six years.

GRI’s rise began in the US in 1997, when it was founded in Boston, MA, by sustainability advocates Ceres and the Tellus Institute.

Originally existing as a department within Ceres, the GRI first published its guidelines in 2000. Two years later, at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, its second generation of guidelines was inked into the Plan of Implementation signed by all contributing nations. 

Its permanence secured, that year the institute set down roots in Amsterdam, where its main offices remain. In 2006 it published its third set of guidelines, called G3. Created with the help of over 3,000 experts from various sectors, G3 set the GRI on course towards the lofty position it holds today.

It expanded into new areas, offering coaching and guidance for sustainability reporting novices, and various certifications. Its truly international team – representing 32 nationalities – is now made up of 68 employees. Behind them now stands a growing network of thousands of individuals from all sectors and backgrounds. As of 2013, GRI moved on to G4.

In this relatively short stretch of time, the business world’s understanding, perception of and approach towards sustainability has changed fundamentally.

The concept has ditched its outsider status and gone mainstream, now sitting in boardrooms around the world. Some 93% of the largest companies in the world now prepare sustainability reports.

In this time, the GRI has remained not only relevant but at the forefront. Of that 93%, 82% refer to GRI guidelines in producing their reports.

“Though we are pleased with how many organisations use our guidelines to produce their sustainability reports, we remain committed to bringing even more organisations onboard,” Syvanen says.

She adds that in particular, GRI wants to see many more small and medium-sized firms begin reporting.

Indeed, while the uptake of corporate sustainability is encouraging, it is not enough. The dire warnings of scientists, frequent environmental disasters and corporate scandals illustrate clearly that more needs to be done.  

This is why the GRI’s ultimate ambition is to play a role in making sustainability reporting standard practice worldwide. Working towards this goal, GRI has recently announced that going forward it will have a strong focus on collaboration with other reporting standards organisations

Now that so many large companies are reporting, one of the GRI’s new missions is to improve the quality of the information that is disclosed.

“It’s not enough for organisations to just produce a sustainability report. In order for stakeholders to benefit from sustainability reporting it is essential that organisations produce robust reports that focus on the material impacts of the organisation’s operations,” Syvanen says. 

“Enabling organisations to produce higher quality reports is the core principle behind our latest set of guidelines.”

The organisation has also recently welcomed a new chief executive in Michael Meehan, a veteran of several clean-tech businesses and sustainability reporting projects. He replaces Ernst Ligteringen, who departs after 12 years of stewardship, 12 years of keeping GRI at the top. 

Corporate sustainability – its priorities, its requirements – will always be changing. It is a rapidly changing world, but GRI looks certain to keep pace.

Take our 2014 reader survey and you could win an iPad, Kindle or donation to a charity of your choice.

Further reading:

Ceres initiative looks to boost stock exchange sustainability reporting

51% of corporations emitting unsustainable levels of CO2, study finds

Calls for greater investment transparency applies to more than ethical funds

Are these the world’s ‘most’ sustainable companies?

Revised sustainability framework looks to cut out ‘tick box reporting’

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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