Friday, October 05, 2007

The value of sustainability information

The big buzz around here this week is the launch of the GRI Readers Choice Awards. These are not just awards for the sake of awards - they represent a whole new era for sustainability reporting.

Sustainability reporting will not become a mainstream practice unless a freeflowing market for such information develops. People who stand to benefit the most from sustainability information as disclosed by companies today either don't know this information exists, or it comes to them in a form that is not usable or optimal. Who are these current and potential beneficiaries of sustainability information? Journalists, employees or prospective employees, investors and analysts, board and management team members, NGOs, consumers, and broader civil society.

Until now GRI has focused on the information issuers by creating Guidelines and supporting materials for them to use as the basis for reporting economic, environmental, and social information. But now GRI is trying to create, stimulate, educate, and add value to the information users side. The Readers Choice Awards are designed to engage these information users/report readers directly and give them an avenue through which they can express their opinion.

Readers are invited to select the reports of interest to them, and then assign scores to each of these reports based on their assessment of the quality and usefulness of the report to them.

Reports that gain the highest scores in nine different categories will be declared the winner in a high profile ceremony in May 2008 - but really its the readers and the movement towards better accountability and transparency that will be the real winners.

We predict that the results of the scoring will lead directly to changes in the current practice of sustainability reporting. By getting a better understanding of what readers/users want and need, report preparers will thing about reporting differently.

Early signs look good - after only 48 hours online the Readers Choice website had nearly 2000 visitors from 70 countries and hundreds had registered and started to score reports. We certainly hope thousands and thousands will join these early participants. I will keep you posted as we progress in this big experiment!


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