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Making Working Groups work for sustainability
11 January 2012

​As the G4 development process continues, the Disclosure on Management Approach Working Group has been set up and is preparing for its first meeting. The call for nominations for the Governance and Remuneration Working Group closes on 13 January 2012. There are still Working Groups to be announced, and calls for nominations will appear on the GRI website in the last week of January.
​There are many reasons for people to get involved in the development of GRI’s Guidelines. Paul Davies is a Principal at Banarra, a small Australian Sustainability Consultancy. Banarra is a GRI Certified Training Partner in Australia, and Paul is a member of the G4 practitioners’ network.

“We get a lot of input from clients about GRI and the Guidelines. We are also expected to provide our clients with information on reporting beyond what’s in the Guidelines – information about how to produce a report that’s not explicitly covered in the Guidelines,” explains Davies, who is now also a member of the Working Group on Disclosures on Management Approach.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the G4 development process, and I’m really glad it’s on Disclosure on Management Approach (DMAs) in particular. Work that Banarra has done in Australia has found that lots of reporters don’t appreciate the value that readers attach to DMAs, and instead focus more on the reporting of performance data.

“Feedback from report users suggests that while they think performance data is valuable, it doesn’t show whether good performance is due to good luck or good management. Readers get frustrated that companies don’t talk about their management and strategy – they are looking for long-term surety that there is good management of people and systems, and that good performance isn’t happenstance. What I’d like to see in G4 is a strengthening of understanding for reporters about the value of disclosing management approaches,” adds Davies.

Being part of a Working Group has many benefits above and beyond helping to develop world-leading sustainability guidance. For Milagros Zamudio, who is in charge of the corporate image and social responsibility area at Electroperu S.A. in Peru, the diversity of the Working Group is of great benefit to its members.

“I’m very excited about this Working Group,” explains Zamudio. “Exchanging information, points of view, with people from different cultures is great. It’s the best way to learn – about countries, about different things. You can be happy to go to a world-class university but you learn more when you exchange ideas directly with people from different countries.”

Diversity is an important factor in GRI Working Groups – they must be multi-stakeholder, and members represent a variety of geographical regions. “I’m hoping the input I can bring will be useful,” notes Davies. “I have worked on international groups similar to this, so I know how challenging it can be. But I think diversity is really important – I’m looking forward to some robust conversation!”

Zamudio is keen to encourage other people from Latin America to get involved in the G4 development process. “When I was reading about GRI recently I found the call for the DMA Working Group for G4 – should I apply? I didn’t know if they would take me into account but I thought it would be great being part of this, so I applied. There were few applications from Latin America; I think it’s sad that many companies don’t know about GRI. Maybe people feel they are not good enough to apply, maybe they’re not sure about their English. The Framework has a lot to do with diversity, taking into account so many different points of view. It’s time for people from low and middle income countries to get involved and express their point of view, and GRI’s Working Groups provide a great opportunity to do this.”

GRI will announce the remaining G4 Working Groups later this month, and nominations will be accepted for one month following announcement. Why get involved? According to Davies, it’s about results.

“If you are in a position to deal with reporters and report users, and you are getting feedback from both about how GRI could do things better, then this is a golden opportunity to translate that input into real improvement,” he says. “It’s incredibly exciting and I would encourage anyone to get involved in G4, whether that is by joining a Working Group or responding during the next Public Comment Period.”