Sunday, June 5, 2011

How to spend your spare time in 2012

Got a little spare time on your hands? Know someone who has? Want to change the world? Know someone who does? Don't worry. I am not referring to having you start up a new social enterprise for advancing social well-being for disadvantaged tribal communities in Uttar Pradesh. Nor am I referring to getting involved in World Environment Day (yes, it's today!) by helping to constructing a plant nursery from organic and recycled materials in the NatureKids School in Drake Bay in Costa Rica.

Here's the thing. What I have in mind is the Call for Action for nominations for the Global Reporting Initiative Stakeholder Council and the Technical Advisory Committee ? If you are a GRI Organizational Stakeholder, or a reporting geek, then this is your chance to get your footprint in the door.

By now, you cannot have failed to notice the massive impact the GRI has had on sustainability performance and reporting. By far the most widely used reporting framework in the world, the GRI has set itself lofty goals to main instream the transparency of more than just a relative handful of companies that report today to include all large and medium-sized companies everywhere by 2015 while upgrading the next generation of the GRI framework (G4) to achieve greater harmonization of reported data and pave the way for the Next Big Thing, Integrated Reporting. These moves, if successful, will surely transform the landscape of business globally and provide greater impetus for more responsible and sustainable practices.

The GRI operates as a multi-stakeholder organization , harnessing a democracy of views from all sectors and all regions. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this consensus-oriented structure and wide diversity of inputs, the GRI has achieved a helluva lot. Take a look at the GRI's recent Year in Review to get a sense of what progress is being made. Part of this progress is due to the commitment and intelligent contributions of the volunteer members of two of the GRI's key governing bodies, the Stakeholder Council and the Technical Advisory Committee.

The Stakeholder Council is the GRI’s formal stakeholder policy forum and provides advice on key strategic and policy issues to GRI’s Board of Directors. The Council approves nominations for the Board of Directors and makes strategic recommendations to the Board on future policy or business planning activities. The Stakeholder Council has 50 members, who are elected to their roles for a tenure of three years.

I had a chat with Carlos Eduardo Lessa Brandão, Vice-Chairman of the Stakeholder Council. Carlos is on the Board of Directors of the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance (IBGC), where he chairs the Sustainability Commission and the Editorial Committee. Carlos told me that he got involved with the GRI because of his "interest in the relationship between business and sustainability and the possibility to be involved more deeply with a very important initiative such as GRI, as well as the governance challenge - large and diversified group that has to make important decisions while meeting only once or twice a year." I asked Carlos about his the time he devotes to the GRI Stakeholder Council. "Since 2009, there have been 2 meetings a year (each is two days). Before each meeting, members must read the preparatory material and the curricula of candidates (there are elections every year). Additionally, the SC members are expected to help the development of the GRI network in their home countries, which demands additional time." This sounds like a serious commitment. But how does a group of 50 people make decisions? Carlos said this is due to the skill of the Chair in organizing the decision making process as well as the quality and commitment of the Council members. And what's in it for Carlos? "The opportunity to exchange ideas and enjoy a unique interaction with other Council members". Oh, and changing the world, of course.

Nominations are now invited for the 2012 Stakeholder Council. You can nominate yourself (don't be shy!). The nominations officially started on 13 April 2011 and will run until 12 June 2011 midnight (CET) Amsterdam time. So you still have time to submit your nomination :). People can vote for you until 31st August and results are announced in October 2011. Check it all out here.

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is a altogether a more intimate affair with a selected team of eight members at present (though up to 15 is possible according to  the TAC rules). The purpose of the TAC is to support the development of the GRI Framework by serving as the most senior advisory body to the GRI for technical issues, a technical resource for the Board on issues related to the development of the GRI Framework and assisting in maintaining the overall quality and coherence of the GRI framework by providing high level technical advice and expertise. That sounds important, right? Members serve for three year terms.

The selection criteria for the TAC gives preference to people who have demonstrated technical excellence in an area related to performance measurement and reporting (including the use of reports), knowledge of current reporting practices and the GRI, experience with and understanding of multi-stakeholder processes, experience in the technical development of international and national standards, guidelines, or other CSR tools and more.

To understand a little more about the TAC, I had a chat with Michael Nugent, Technical Manager at the International Federation of Accountants. Michael saw involvement with TAC as "offering a great opportunity help solve the really big issues the world faces - not that sustainability reporting is THE solution, but it is part of the solution and it is the part where I felt my background in standard-setting and assurance could be of use." In terms of time commitment, Michael says "It varies a lot depending on what is on. When G3 was being finalized involvement was quite intense, but at the same time it was very rewarding to be able to contribute to such a significant step forward. At the moment, my involvement is preparation and participation in a 2 hour call each month, reviewing documents out-of-session from time to time, and preparation and participation in a 2-day meeting in Amsterdam once or maybe twice a year. Work on G3.1 and sector supplements have been important over recent years, as has preparation for G4, which will now be the main issue for some time ". And what's in it for Michael? "Being a member of the TAC has been an excellent way for me to better understand different stakeholder’s perspectives on sustainability reporting."  Oh, and changing the world, of course.

Nominations are now invited for the 2012 Technical Advisory Committee. The nominations officially opened on 27 April 2011 and will run until 26 June 2011 midnight (CET) Amsterdam time. Decisions will be made by the GRI Nominating Committee in July. Check it all out here.

So. Want to reconsider? Got a little spare time coming up in 2012?

By now, you might be wondering why I am making such a big deal of all of this. Well, I do happen to believe that 2012-2013-2014 are going to be three of the most exciting and dynamic years in the history of the GRI when sustainability reporting both becomes critical mass and reinvents itself in the process. I think GRI will be at the heart of this change. I think the outcome will make a difference to the way business is conducted, regulated and reported and, therefore, to the way we all live our lives. Being part of the GRI governance in this period would certainly be a big responsibility and also rather exciting. 

I can't end up without disclosing that I have submitted my own self-nomination to serve on the TAC. Just so that you know I practice what I preach :). Wish me luck!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Henk Hadders said...

Hi Elaine,

Thank you for this post and this information, and let me be one of the first to wish you good luck in becoming a member of GRI’s Technical Advisory Committee. It is truly a big responsibility to be setting up GRI’s framework for the future. But in order for this GRI-governance body to function well, “diversity” is of course an important element, now that our context-based local and global well-being is at stake.

So I (as an advocate of Context-Based Sustainability) disclose to you, that I also nominate Mark W. McElroy as your colleague in this TAC. Of course, ....I know that this is not the proper way to do this. And I even don’t know if Mark has any spare time left in 2012 or is willing to do so, but I’m -sure as hell- will ask him and press him to apply for this position, and to be given a chance to help the evolution of true sustainability measurement & reporting further on its way in the years 2012-2014. What a great image that would be: you and Mark having a serious TAC-discussion about “Context in Context”!!

Best wishes,

Henk Hadders

UKati said...

Hi Elaine,
I really wish for you to get elected to the TAC. Your objectivity and experience make you a perfect candidate!
I will go for SC again! Hope to work together!

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