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Rio+20 "encourages" sustainability reporting

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Jun 24, 2012

The outcome document from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held on June 20–22, 2012, has acknowledged the importance of sustainability reporting. Paragraph 47 of the document "encourages" companies to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle. The development has been championed by the governments of Brazil, Denmark, France, and South Africa, which are forming a group of "friends of paragraph 47" to advance corporate sustainability reporting.

As reported in our earlier story on the precursor Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, the final outcome document is quite different from the original "zero draft" proposals, which called for a "global policy framework" effectively requiring sustainability reporting.

Instead, the final outcome document reads as follows (with only slight wording changes from the pre-meeting final draft text):

We acknowledge the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle. We encourage industry, interested governments and relevant stakeholders with the support of the United Nations system, as appropriate, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, taking into account experiences from already existing frameworks and paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for capacity-building.

Before the release of the outcome document, the governments of Brazil, Denmark, France, and South Africa announced at the Rio+20 conference the formation of a group of "friends of paragraph 47." The group's vision is that corporate transparency and accountability are key elements to enhancing the private sector’s contribution to sustainable development and that making sustainability reporting standard practice among companies will contribute to monitor the impacts on and the contribution to sustainable development by the corporate sector.

Brazil, Denmark, France, and South Africa are considered pioneers in sustainability reporting practice and policy, having various degrees of sustainability reporting requirements in place. In the press release announcing the group, it is noted that these countries are now "taking the opportunity provided by the global political agreement at Rio+20 to share their experience with the rest of the world and contribute to making corporate sustainability reporting standard practice." The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have been invited  to support them, and other governments have been invited to join the group.

Other governments have also announced related initiatives, such as the United Kingdom government's announcement of the introduction of mandatory carbon footprint reporting for FTSE main market listed companies.

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