Coke Slams Guidelines – but GRI Argues its Case

by | Feb 27, 2013

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The latest version of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines — G4 — will require companies only to provide disclosures and indicators relevant to their business, a GRI spokesperson said, denying claims that G4 will impose a greater burden on companies.

The reporting company itself will determine what indicators to report, Marjolein Baghuis said. Additionally, G4 will provide greater clarity on the distinction between “what to report on” and “how to report,” according to Baghuis.

The guidelines will be launched at the Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting in May. Baghuis said work is still being done on the final version of G4 — and noted it will be very different from the exposure draft that was circulated for public comment in 2012.

G4 will be more “user friendly” for both existing and new reporting companies, Baghuis said, in response to a Guardian article that said proposed changes to the guidelines could make them too complex and burdensome to businesses.

Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Lucinda Hensman told the Guardian: “Our company’s need to engage more people in our sustainability work is seemingly at odds with the direction in which sustainability reporting guidelines are moving. Indeed, increasingly prescriptive requirements of expert audiences — the GRI G4 guidelines are a case in point — may in fact make the audience for our reporting more limited.”

Another company said: “If the expectations of G4 cannot be simplified, existing reporters may begin to step away from GRI, and new reporters may not be in a position to report against the guidelines at all.”

Baghuis says many of the criticisms in the blog are a reaction to the exposure draft. She told Environmental Leader the exposure draft “was never intended as a ‘draft version of G4’ — it was there to generate input, to make G4 the best GRI Guidelines yet.”

Sustainability experts, organizations and professionals made a record 3,095 formal feedback submissions on the exposure draft during two 90-day public comment periods.

The feedback identified several patterns, Baghuis says. “Among these were recommendations that the G4 draft be improved in terms of focus, simplicity and clarity, and that it provide better support to small businesses and beginner reporters.” She says these ideas will be incorporated into the final draft.

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