MOBILIZING KNOWLEDGE TO SHAPE THE NEXT ERA OF SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING
05 August 2015
​Image credit: Shivendu Jauhari/Thinkstock 2015

​With nearly 20 years of reporting practice behind us, four versions of the Guidelines, over 25,000 reports registered on the Sustainability Disclosure Database, and most importantly tens of thousands of practitioners and experts actively engaged in reporting and transparency – an unprecedented body of knowledge has accumulated. GRI aspires to mobilize this knowledge for the advancement of the transparency agenda and the practice of reporting.

​To do this, we established a new Knowledge Unit this month. We will be capturing and creating leading edge knowledge with the overall aim of supporting the practice of reporting and the role of transparency in the advancement of sustainability issues. We interviewed Alyson Slater, the director of the Knowledge Unit to learn more.

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Alyson Slater, Director Knowledge Unit

Why has the Knowledge Unit been created?
For nearly two decades GRI has been the place to go for information about reporting, transparency and sustainability, and we have such a richness of knowledge across our organization and network. Our aim with the new unit is to more proactively capture and share this knowledge, to pool our collective resources, and help identify the priority issues and topics to focus our efforts on.

What are some of your priority topics for the coming year?
There are so many interesting and urgent topics that the network is demanding more information on, it’s hard to know where to start!  We have divided our content development plan into two broad categories: reporting practice and sustainability aspects.

To support reporting practice we will carry out a deep dive into the big three topics that are dominating the reporting practitioner landscape at the moment: materiality, stakeholder engagement and supply chain. This is in addition to GRI’s current Corporate Leadership Groups on the future of reporting (Reporting 2025) and integrated reporting.

On sustainability aspects we are underway with developing new content on some of the toughest challenges companies face when it comes to transparency on issues like governance and anti-corruption, human rights, climate change, and gender and diversity. These will be available as half-day workshops in the coming months.

How can the network access this knowledge?
Our ambition is to create more actionable and ‘living’ knowledge products, such as workshop materials, training courses or curriculum to support peer learning roundtables. The main aim is to provide a platform for people to get access to the information they need – either provided directly by us or by connecting people to experts within our wider global community. Across all of this work, we will continue our longstanding tradition of working in partnership with subject matter experts on key topics to ensure that materials are developed to the highest quality and to keep pace with the fast changing sustainability landscape.

How can the knowledge unit help empower sustainable decisions?
One big element here is to ensure that the intended beneficiaries of reported data are able to access it, and use it to advance their work or make the changes in the world they want to see. To support this, we have been tracking the way reported data is being used by different departments and functions within companies, and also by external stakeholders such as media, investors, NGOs, consumers, workers and others. We also run workshops for data users to help them get more out the information that is made publicly available by the companies of interest to them, and how to get involved in the reporting process.