Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ceres conference day 1: NGOs and reporting

Ceres is a US-based non-profit that is basically a network of investors and environmentalists that are working towards "sustainable prosperity". They work collaboratively with US companies to help shift towards a new way of doing business. I am at their annual conference in Boston, USA this week and will post a daily blog reflecting the discussions among the 600+ attendees.

Today two Ceres staff presented their findings from a survey they did of US and international NGOs on how they view the GRI and how they use sustainability reports from companies of interest to them to advance their missions.

The findings were encouraging as most respondents agreed that the GRI framework was suitable for their information needs and they were strongly supportive of the mission and work of GRI. But it was clear that NGOs were only just beginning to understand how reports and the continual reporting processes that companies undergo in the lead up to issuing a report could be of greater value to NGOs in terms of their relationships with companies or the advancement of their mission or campaigns.

One of the barriers to better use of reports by NGOs was cited as the inappropriate way in which sustainability information is communicated. Usually in large printed or PDF documents, NGOs dont have the capacity or patience to sift through and dig out the information of interest to them. Many times NGOs operate on an issues basis, not so much focused on one company, so they are not always as interested in the full sustainability story a company has to tell, but instead focued on a smaller subset of issues.

Participants concluded that more dialogue between NGOs and companies is needed for creative solutions to be found for ensuring the right information gets to the right stakeholders in the right way.

Congratulations to Ceres Fellow Susan Roe on a great study, you can find out more at www.ceres.org

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