Sunday, March 7, 2010

Whose report is it anyway ?

In support of International Women's Day, and women everywhere, I was asked to write a piece for the GRI Blog. I did. you can find it HERE. Happy Day, gals!

In preparation for this piece, I chatted some with Maria Sillanpaa, as you can read on the GRI Blog.

But sometimes, valuable insights are worth two blops.

In talking about reporting, Maria mentioned her frustration with clients who tell her: "WE MUST do a GRI report!"  Maria's response is : " By all means write a report, but do YOUR report. "

Maria is a staunch advocate of transparency and reporting, and sits on the Technical Advisory Committee of the GRI. She knows her stuff. And, here, she is right. The GRI is a framework to assist in preparing a Sustainability Report, not a checklist around which you build your report. Before you even think of whether you are responding to EN9, LA4 or 4.13, you should be thinking about your sustainability story, the concept of your report and how the way you want to tell your story and  aligns with your Company mission, spirit and culture. If you would like your report to reference the GRI framework, at some point, yes, you need to check how you are doing against the GRI indicators. But if you succumb to the temptation of blindly following the framework and producing your report as a list of answers to 100-and-something clauses and indicators, you will end up with a dull summary of activitiy which energizes no-one, including you.

If you are writing a report, remember that it belongs to YOU, not to the GRI. Make it unquestionably yours. Use the GRI framework as a tool but not as a straightjacket. Whose report is it anyway?

Thank you Maria for this insight !

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm. Visit our website at:


UKati said...

Oh, words coming from my heart! I thought its a Hungarian "disease", to use GRI as a target and not as a tool, but now I see it is not. And what a relief that Maria from GRI shares our frustrations on this issue. Lets work on it at any possible battlefield! You can count on us, that is for sure!

Maria said...

thanks for your comment UKati!

as Elaine says, i live and die by transparency and accountability and think that GRI is probably the most successful initiative in this space since we started to talk about & do sustainability reporting.

however, i see this tail wagging the dog syndrome going on especially in regions now joining the reporting game. 'we need to do a GRI report' i often hear - absolutely, but let GRI worry about their own report and you focus on yours. It's your story, your issues & people, your learning, your innovation that we want to hear about - let GRI be your guide, not your master!

BTW - i'm not really from GRI, just on TAC as a voice

thanks again for your support!

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