Turning up the heat on reporting in Rio
09 May 2012

​As the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – gets closer, discussions around sustainability reporting are heating up. GRI is working with many partners, including the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, the Green Economy Coalition and the Stakeholder Forum to promote a global policy framework on sustainability reporting based on a report or explain principle – where companies report their sustainability performance or explain why they do not report.
​A report or explain approach to sustainability reporting policy would give flexibility to companies, enabling them to decide whether to report or explain why if they do not. It would also give governments flexibility in the implementation of policy – for instance through smart ‘soft’ regulation, mandatory measures, or stock exchanges requiring listed companies to report.

This would lead to more organizational sustainability performance information being available worldwide, and enable organizations to manage and improve their own sustainability performance.

Teresa Fogelberg, Deputy Chief Executive of GRI, explained why Rio+20 provides a unique opportunity to work towards a green economy. “UN Member states will come together in June to discuss sustainable development, and in particular how governments and the private sector can support and drive it. This is a great opportunity for leaders to discuss sustainability reporting and the role transparency plays in a sustainable global economy.”

The Rio+20 Conference will include Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The Conference will result in a focused political document. According to the organizers, “Governments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.”

Sustainability reporting features in the ‘Zero Draft’ of the political document planned to be released at the end of the Conference, in paragraph 24. Negotiations on the outcome document are still open. The second round of informal negotiations took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 23 April to 4 May, and an additional round of informal negotiations will take place at the end of May. This will give UN Member States more time for meaningful and constructive discussions, aiming at achieving agreements on the outcome document of the Conference.

In the negotiations, UN Member States are discussing sustainability reporting and to the role of the private sector in sustainable development. While it is broadly recognized that it is essential for companies to monitor and improve their sustainability, and therefore contribute to a sustainable green economy, the need of a global policy approach remains open for discussion.

A wide range of stakeholders are backing a bold decision in the Rio+20 outcome document. GRI is partnering with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to promote sustainability reporting, and to strengthen paragraph 24 of the Zero Draft.

Will the UN Member States be ready to progress and make a bold decision to mainstream sustainability reporting? GRI is contributing technical expertise and a platform to discuss this further. GRI will be present at the Rio+20 Conference, and is organizing and engaging in a number of events in the official Governmental arena, in the UNGC Corporate Sustainability Forum and around the city.

To keep up to date with the events GRI is planning, hosting and attending at Rio+20, read the latest news on GRI’s website, and check out next month’s Newsletter!

For more information, email reportorexplain@globalreporting.org.