Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sustainability: What's in a word?

GRI uses the term "sustainability reporting" to describe the topics its Guidelines cover. These topics range from environmental, economic, and social impacts. The term sustainability is derived from the original term "Sustainable Development" as coined by the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland just over 20 years ago - she used the phrase to describe the aspiration that we use today's resources in such a way that we do not negatively affect the ability of future generations.

But wherever you go around the world you hear different terms being used interchangeably for this same concept. Triple Bottom Line. Corporate (Social) Responsibility, Corporate Citizenship, Extra Financial Reporting, and others. We do hear from some companies that the term 'sustainability' doesnt really resonate in their businesses since its not a term that is normally associated with environmental and social impacts in the business context - but is usually used with reference to single bottom line - financial results.

Since the other terms (CSR, TBL) differ so broadly in meaning and use globally, and do not always tie directly to the sustainable development imperative, GRI decided to continue to use the term Sustainability Reporting when it updated its Guidelines recently. Its a reflection of a committment to the overall sustainable development agenda and is the most accurate terminology.

Which is the best term in your opinion?

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