Full disclosure: A report on reporting

Is your business considering sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting? What will it be: CERES? GRI? CDP? FRP? A4S? WBCSD? Or IIRC?

Phew. That’s a lot of acronyms for what’s really a simple premise: reporting on sustainability and CSR data to stakeholders and the public at large. The above organizations are all associated with voluntary reporting frameworks that organizations can use to standardize sustainability and CSR reporting. While the frameworks differ in scope, to sort out any potential confusion, here’s a quick rundown of each:

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): Based in the UK, CDP brings together investors and works with large corporations around the world to develop effective carbon reduction strategies and disclose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data. Less a sustainability/CSR reporting framework than an emissions reporting organization, CDP’s scope is nonetheless broad: it publishes emissions data accounting for more than a quarter of global air emissions associated with human activity.

Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES): Founded in 1989 by a group of investors seeking to integrate sustainability into capital markets, CERES itself is not as focused on reporting and disclosure as it is on encouraging sustainability reporting. However, the organization has birthed a reporting framework known as GRI (see below).

Ceres and Tellus Institute Facility Reporting Project (FRP): Another CERES-based reporting framework, FRP is focused squarely on providing a generally accepted framework for facility- and site-specific environmental and social sustainability reporting.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD): This CEO-led association of companies pushes business to incorporate sustainable development into all business decisions. WBCSD is primarily concerned with advocacy and policy development, but asks members to report on environmental performance and urges them to “aspire” towards economic and social reporting.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): Formed in 1998 by CERES, GRI has become the standard-bearer on how organizations report on environmental, social and economic performance. Over 1,500 global organizations report in accordance with G3 guidelines (the most recent iteration of the GRI reporting framework).

The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Framework (A4S): Spearheaded by none other than Prince Charles, A4S brings advisory and accounting bodies as well as NGOs together to embed sustainability into decision-making and reporting processes.

International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC): This is the big one. Announced only earlier this month, IIRC is poised to become the everything-to-everyone reporting framework. IIRC is a collaborative project between GRI and A4S and essentially covers all bases: environmental, social, financial, governance—everything! If widely adopted, and if integrated reporting becomes popular enough, IIRC might erase the need for other reporting frameworks.

For the forward-thinking organization, IIRC is probably the best route. However, if you’re just beginning to consider sustainability and CSR reporting and don’t want to worry about stringent framework requirements yet, start by capturing, tracking, and reporting on environmental data and essential sustainability metrics. It’s a simple start that will make the leap to full-fledged reporting easier in the long run.

In the meantime, check out One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy (Robert G. Eccles and Michael P. Krzus) for more information about integrated reporting.

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