GRI's Competitive Business Program two years on: Successes and the way forward
25 September 2018

​GRI, with funding from the Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs (SECO), launched its Competitive Business Program two years ago, to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) engage in and improve their corporate sustainability reporting. The halfway mark for the program is an ideal moment to share insights, lessons learned and celebrate the successes.  
​Better training and tools

Using the ‘training of trainers’ methodology, over 300 SMEs in Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa and Vietnam have received tools and training to set up appropriate internal mechanisms for sustainability reporting and understanding what kind of data is most relevant, so they can communicate their sustainability impacts. 
 
By issuing a sustainability report SMEs can prove to their current and potential buyers that they are aware of their sustainability impact. By profiling themselves as sustainability-conscious suppliers with established data-collection systems, they can become more competitive in the global value chain. In the Competitive Business Program, many SMEs’ enrollment is tied to the involvement of one of their main buyers in the program. Under this program, GRI developed a Digital Reporting Platform, a customized digital environment where SMEs can collect and systematize their data. By providing such a catalyst for SMEs who are starting their reporting journey, GRI lowers barriers cited by such organizations like a lack of resources and difficulty with reporting terminology.  
 
Finally, the program helps understand and deepen outreach to policy actors and sustainability reporting data users to complement the uptake in reporting practices. In South Africa, GRI worked together with the Department of Environmental Affairs to organize a policy dialogue, while media professional attended an event in Ghana to learn more about how to use sustainability data for their work. Vietnam had a nine-fold increase in the number of visitors from Vietnam to the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database in one year.  
 
This year, the program reached a milestone, with the first Graduating Class of SMEs that completed their first GRI Referenced sustainability reports using the Digital Reporting Platform. In ceremonies in Peru and Colombia, close to 120 SMEs got together to celebrate this success together with the buyers that are also partnering with the program, the trainers, and SECO and GRI representatives. Local media and other parties that have shown interest in the future of the program only increased the enthusiasm for the project, which has already shown that there is added value for all different actors when sustainability reporting becomes part of the processes in global value chains.  
 
Is your organization based in one of the countries mentioned here? Then visit our website to learn more about the Competitive Business Program! Are you active in the policy field? Then have a read through the “Empowering Small Businesses” publication.