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Leading governments join together to commit to corporate sustainability reporting
04 July 2012

​The governments of Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa joined together in a political group, in support of paragraph 47. Those leading governments have formed a ‘Group of ‘Friends of Paragraph 47’ to advance corporate sustainability reporting, and have invited GRI and UNEP to support them in this endeavor.
​With the technical advice and support of UNEP and GRI, the ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’, will investigate possible ways for advancing best practices and governmental action on corporate sustainability reporting, and for developing capacity in developing countries. The members of the ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’ have come together with the ambition to build on what already exists in terms of policy and practice, and to construct models for best practice guidance and policy , as an inspiration for other countries. They aim to offer a Roadmap that could be reported back to the international community in the coming months.
The ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’ will invite other governments to join. The two organizations which will support them will operate in an inclusive way and seek to include input from other relevant stakeholders.

GRI is fully committed to building on this accomplishment of governments at Rio+20, offering its Sustainability Reporting Framework – a public good that represents the global de facto standard on sustainability reporting.

GRI is now developing the next generation of its Guidelines – G4 – which aims to make sustainability reporting easier and more accessible for organizations worldwide. G4, which will be launched in May 2013, is being developed via GRI’s multi-stakeholder Due Process.

GRI is confident that the ‘Group of Friends of Paragraph 47’ and the G4 Guidelines will represent two crucial elements to make sustainability reporting a standard practice, paving the way to a sustainable global economy.

The Group of Friends was announced at GRI’s Rio+20 event ‘Denmark & South Africa Show the Way: Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting Create a Green Economy and Sustainable Development’. In the coming months they will have their kick off meeting to carve out their scope of work.

At the event, Mr Villy Søvndal, Minister for Foreign Affairs for the government of Denmark, encouraged fellow leaders to adopt similar strategies to Denmark, where large companies are required to report their economic, environmental and social performance, or explain why they do not report.

Søvndal said: “Governments can play a crucial role in driving sustainability practices and disclosure at a national level. In Denmark, the legal requirement for the largest companies to report is having positive effects – increasing Danish companies’ international reputation and creating value for the companies and their stakeholders. These positive outcomes have in turn motivated more companies to address their Corporate Social Responsibility and to report on their sustainability performance. The Rio+20 Conference should inspire more governments and businesses to adopt sustainability reporting as a driver for sustainable development”.

Similarly, in South Africa companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are required to produce a report integrating their financial and sustainability performance, or explain why they do not – a requirement of the King III Code.

Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs for South Africa, explains the benefits. “King III has provided a platform for compulsory integrated sustainability reporting for all companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), this means that all these companies are required to report on their environmental, economic, social as well as governance performance. Adoption of more sustainable approaches will create new green jobs, open up new investment opportunities and export markets; supports the creation of knowledge based economy and allow South Africa to set standards and demonstrate thought leadership.”

This commitment offers the opportunity to scale up reporting efforts and respond to the needs that still persist. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, commented: "Year in and year out trillions of dollars flow in and out of investments across the globe, a proportion of which is assisting in generating the conditions for a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, job generating Green Economy".

"An intensified commitment on sustainability reporting could dramatically assist in accelerating and scaling-up these positive investment flows and bridge what is currently a big gap between ambition and reality for a sustainable future. The momentum is rapidly gaining ground among countries, responsible investors, an increasing number of corporations and forward-looking sectors of civil society--this announcement offers further momentum to accelerate and scale-up accountability towards the Future We Want and the future seven billion people need," added Mr. Steiner.

Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa are pioneers in sustainability reporting practice and policy. They 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.