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Help shape the future of sector-specific reporting
07 November 2012
​As announced in the October Newsletter, GRI has launched a research project into material sustainability topics for sectors. In May 2013, GRI aims to publish a list of internationally-recognized material topics for business/industry activity groups, to be used as a reference in the sustainability reporting field. To prepare this list in a fair and thorough way, GRI is inviting all interested parties to provide feedback, and supporting documentation, on the most relevant sustainability topics for their sector or industry.
​GRI’s Deputy Chief Executive, Dr. Nelmara Arbex, explains more about this project and why it is important for GRI’s network to contribute.

What is the sector research project and what is its aim?

The ‘global research on material topics per sector’ is a project that aims to define an international reference list of topics considered material for different sectors. We want to create the list based on the perspectives of different stakeholders - business, labor, civil society experts, financial market institutions, and others. The list will be published in May 2013, and presented at the GRI Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting.

Why was this approach chosen?

There has already been quite a lot of work done on identifying material topics per sector or industry, but until now there has not been an internationally-recognized system for doing this. By identifying and collecting the perspectives of different stakeholder groups, we are keeping the spirit of GRI’s multi-stakeholder approach and gathering the broadest variety of input possible. This way we can offer the reporting community content that can contribute to moving the global agenda forward.

The project has an Advisory Committee. Why does this project have such a committee, who are they and what is their role?

Over the course of the last year, we have been discussing the relevance of this sector research project with many international organizations - how to effectively and efficiently implement it, and what the role of GRI should be in creating an international multi-stakeholder reference on this subject. One of the learning points from these discussions was that international rating agencies and financial organizations are the most active players in this field. But while they have dedicated, influential teams with a lot of expertise, they don’t have the multi-stakeholder perspective that GRI does. We began to mutually understand that by collaborating with each other, we could greatly increase the value of this work.

A collaboration was established and an Advisory Committee, made up of a great team of experts, was put in place: Tamara Hardegger, Product Manager ESG - ASSET4, Thomson Reuters; Jayn Harding, Principal Advisor, ESG - FTSE Group; Andrew Howard, Head of GS Sustain, Goldman Sachs; Julia Kochetygova, Senior Director - S&P DOW JONES INDICES; Linda-Eling Lee, PhD, Executive Director, Global Head of ESG Ratings Research, MSCI; Daniel Wild, PhD, Head of Research, Member of the Executive Committee - SAM Sustainable Asset Management AG; and Denise Esdon, chair of the GRI Technical Advisory Committee, as an observer.

The Advisory Committee oversees all aspects of the project and their main role is to offer advice to difficult questions like ‘how does one define what is material for each sector’? Or, ‘what are the advantages and disadvantages of using an internationally-accepted sector categorization system’?

How will GRI process the input and when and how will the outcome be presented?

Once the call for topics closes on 14 December, we will analyze all the proposals received and define a selection process for putting together the list of material topics per sector. The results will be compiled into a publication that will be released during the upcoming GRI Global Conference in May 2013.This project will be the starting point for the next generation of GRI Sector Guidance.  We will also publish the names of individuals and organizations whose proposals are included in the final publication.

The deadline to provide input is 14 December 2012. For more information and to download all the necessary documents for the project, view the Material Topics Research pages on the GRI website. You can also join a webinar about the project on 7 November at 4:00 pm CET.

GRI looks forward to receiving your proposals.