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Moving East: The uptake of sustainability reporting in China
07 March 2012
​Photography: zsoolt (CC License)

​Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are rising to the top of corporate agendas worldwide, with increasingly more organizations producing sustainability reports.

​China is no exception to this trend: Between 2001 and 2009, the number of sustainability reports issued in China increased from just one to more than 600¹. According to two research papers by GRI Certified Training Partners Syntao and Golden Bee, the number of published sustainability reports in China has set new records.

As has been the case in countries such as South Africa, India and Brazil, stock exchanges have played a very important role in advancing corporate social responsibility (CSR) in China. In 2008, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) published a policy requiring listed companies to issue CSR reports and thereby disclose non-financial, as well as financial, performance information. The SSE’s CSR initiatives continued, when in 2010 it launched its CSR Index, showcasing the top 100 companies in terms of social responsibility performance. Now, the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. has put out an ESG consultation paper for public comment (Sustainability in China, KPMG, 2011).

The Chinese government has also become an important driver of sustainability reporting, actively guiding enterprises to release reports on their environmental and social performance. In February 2008, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) launched the ‘Green Securities’ policy, making it harder for polluters to raise capital, and requiring listed companies to disclose more information about their environmental records.

Sustainability reporting in China is receiving much more recognition and attention than ever before, and Research by Golden Bee reveals that the GRI Guidelines are the most widely used reporting guidelines in the country.

CSR and sustainability reporting in China is likely to increase even further, and sights are set on improved sustainability disclosure and increased education on corporate governance.

In support of these changes, GRI’s G3.1 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are available in Chinese.

For more information on GRI initiatives in China, contact GRI’s Focal Point China Director, Kaying Lau.

Read the Golden Bee Research report: Overview of CSR Reporting in China 2011.

Read the Syntao Research: A Journey to Discover Values 2010 –study of Sustainability Reporting in China.

¹2009 China CSR Practice Benchmark Report from China WTO Tribune, in: Environmental and CSR Reporting in China Today: A Paradox.