Plenary Predictions

"The biggest issue facing business, society and humanity is sustainability." - Ernst Ligteringen, GRI Chief Executive.
 
Today’s Opening Plenary set the scene for the rest of the Conference, introducing the major themes and giving an opportunity for delegates to meet and welcome one another.

GRI Chief Executive Ernst Ligteringen kicked off the Conference with an inspiring call for more businesses to integrate sustainability into their business models and practices. Ligteringen set the goal of all large companies reporting on sustainablity by 2015.

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Sharan Burrow at the Opening Plenary Panel

"For sustainability reporting to help develop sustainable businesses and markets, it needs to offer information that is relevant, reliable and transparent, and readily available," said Ligteringen. "A lot of progress in this respect has been made but there's still a lot of work to be done. Reporting will only become standard practice beyond the world’s very largest companies when it has the backing of everyone." 

Ligteringen’s call-out comes at a time when many still speak about the trade-offs between profitability and sustainability. 
 
"Sustainability is about strategy," said Ligteringen. "Sustainability reporting must be a strategic and purposeful exercise, not an exercise of box ticking."
 
This was emphatically echoed by the distinguished speakers who shared the spotlight at today’s Opening Plenary. Expert speakers including Achim Steiner of UNEP, Christian Mouillon of Ernst & Young, Peter Norman, Swedish Minister for Financial Markets, and Sharan Burrow of ITUC, discussed the influence different actors have on organizational transparency – from investors, businesses and accountants to governments and civil society.

"As the public discourse around sustainability reporting is evolving, a more digestible understanding of the field is emerging," said Steiner. "With information becoming increasingly available, a new era of societal communication is developing. Sustainability reporting allows consumers to be better informed and make better decisions."
 
At the same time, all speakers emphasized the need for action from governments, regulators and policy makers. According to Steiner, "Initiatives are collaborating but the political will to collaborate is insufficient. Boards would move faster on sustainablity issues if policy and regulation were more rewarding."

Minister Norman added that the Swedish reporting requirements in place for state-owned companies are intended to inspire the private sector. "Public good and private interests increasingly overlap," affirmed Kell.  
 
 
"It's time to move to compliance and beyond voluntary reporting," said Burrow. "The global business model comes at a tremendous cost to ordinary people. We hope that G4 will change business behavior and make a difference to workers in the global supply chain."
 
GRI has a vital role to play in the evolution of corporate transparency, providing organizations with support and guidance on their reporting journey.
 
In driving the transition to a sustainable global economy, GRI and its Guidelines are about creating a global sustainability reporting language. "GRI can't do this on its own," said Ligteringen. "It requires global collaboration. This is about social systems, economic systems, ecosystems. Let's not make it about ego systems.
 
"During the next three days, we'll talk about how we can work together to achieve this global sustainability reporting system that we so badly need."
 
GRI Chief Executive Ernst Ligteringen kicked off the Conference