GRI releases research reports

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28 May, 2013

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has release a number of research reports on sustainability and integrated reporting topics: sustainability topics for various sectors, the experience from early adopters of 'integrated reporting', and assurance on sustainability reports.

Background on the three reports is outlined below:

Sector topics

Sustainability Topics for Sectors: What do stakeholders want to know? (link to GRI website), resulted from research which had the objective of collecting documentation from different stakeholder groups identifying sustainability topics considered to be relevant by them in relation to the different business activity groups: business associations, labour representatives, civil society organisations, information users, and experts.

The report provides information on 52 different business activity groups across numerous industry sectors, dividing the identified sustainability topics into three categories (economic, environmental and social), listing the topic names and specifications, providing references to supporting documentation and identifying the constituency that supports the topic. The report notes the lists "are to be considered as an initial point of reference when organizations or information users are identifying sustainability topics they wish to assess" and, as they result from a research project rather than through the GRI's normal due process, are not considered part of the GRI Reporting Framework.

Sustainability content of integrated reports

This report, titled The sustainability content of integrated reports - a survey of pioneers (link to GRI website), outlines the results of combined quantitative and qualitative research undertaken by GRI to review the different ways in which self-declared ‘integrated reports’ are taking shape around the world. The research encompassed a review of 756 reports published between 2010 and 2012 in accordance with the GRI Guidelines where the reports were identified as 'integrated', and further surveys of 52 companies that consistently issued 'integrated reports' in all three years.

Some highlights of the report's findings include:

  • The number of 'integrated' reports were highest in the sample were from South Africa, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and Finland, largely reflecting regulatory developments in those countries
  • Top sectors preparing 'integrated reports' were financial institutions, energy utilities, energy and mining
  • Approximately a third of all integrated reports clearly embed sustainability and financial information together, and more reports are being titled 'integrated report'
  • Around half of all integrated reports are two separate publications (annual report and sustainability report) published together under one cover
  • Companies embarking on integrated reporting do so for many purposes, including seeking efficiency gains, to encourage integrated thinking and break down 'silos', provide a 'one stop shop' to stakeholders, or because it "seems like a logical and natural thing to do when sustainability is already embedded in their core business"
  • Stakeholders have responded positively to integrated reporting initiatives.


The third report, The external assurance of sustainability reporting (link to GRI website), aims to help sustainability reporters and report readers understand the external assurance of sustainability reporting. The report explains the concept and use of external assurance of sustainability reports (noting differences with external audit of financial reporting), describes issues and processes to consider, and explains the role of assurance for reporters using the G4 version of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.


In related news, the GRI and United Nations (UN) Global Compact have announced the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations, aimed to ensure alignment of their guidance on sustainability performance and reporting. The recently released fourth version of the GRI sustainability reporting guidelines ('G4') already incorporate the Global Compact's ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

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