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Thursday
Dec152011

For Sustainability, 'Rethink, Rebuild, Report'

 As Chief Executive of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Ernst Ligteringen, left, encourages and enables businesses to shine light on their sustainability efforts.

GRI’s mission is to make sustainability reporting just as common in the corporate world as financial reporting. To make it happen, GRI developed guidelines that organizations can use to measure and report their impact within the social, economic, and environmental spheres. Introduced in 2000, the GRI Guidelines are currently on their fourth revision (G3.1), with a new release expected in 2013.

In May 2010, GRI held the third Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency, whose theme was “Rethink, Rebuild, Report.” Ligteringen presented to the Conference’s more than 1,200 attendees two new far-reaching propositions:

By 2015, all large and medium-size companies in OECD countries and large emerging economies should be required to report on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance and, if they do not do so, to explain why; and by 2020, there should be a generally accepted and applied international standard which would effectively integrate financial and ESG reporting by all organizations.

Ligteringen’s talk offered compelling justifications for these bold ultimatums:

If a company chooses not to measure and disclose – to fly blind, as it were – it does not only take a risk with its own business. It deprives the market and society of important information. It potentially undermines solid and responsible decision-making. It creates an uneven playing field for companies. And it withdraws from an essential public debate on sustainability.

Ligteringen has led GRI since it was established as an independent organization in 2002. Before joining GRI, he served for six years as the Executive Director of Oxfam International. His past roles also include Director of Programme Coordination of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Consultant to the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization at the ILO.

Last month, GRI launched the Sustainability Disclosure Database, a free resource that gives the general public access to sustainability performance data for more than 3,000 companies.

The fourth Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency will take place in May 2013.

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Benjamin Kessler is an editor and writer for Ethics 360. He can be contacted here.

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[Editor's note: This post is part of our series profiling global compliance leaders. Most appear on our sponsor Ethisphere’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics. Readers are also welcome to suggest others they'd like to see profiled in this series.]

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