What kind of report should my organisation produce?
This section is designed to help you to analyse your organisation's reporting requirements. By asking yourself the following questions and following the advice given below each one, you should have a better understanding of what kind of sustainability disclosure you should produce.
Is your organisation listed on a stock exchange?
- YES: depending on which exchange it's listed on, there may be sustainability reporting requirements for your organisation. For example, if you're listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, you are strongly encouraged to produce a GRI sustainability report. If you're listed on another exchange, then you will need to check their specific requirements. View the overview of stock exchanges' policies on sustainability disclosure .
- NO, but we're considering it: again, depending on which stock exchange you're considering, there may be sustainability disclosure requirements for 'soon-to-list' companies. Singapore Stock Exchange encourages companies in this category to produce GRI sustainability reports.
Also, bear in mind that if you're trying to attract investors, a growing number of investors are looking to sustainability disclosure to gauge the long-term stability of an organisation. A sustainability report will help to present the interesting and relevant data to prospective investors.
- NO, we're not listed: in this case, there are no specific requirements for your organisation to produce a sustainability report. However, there are many compelling reasons why you should consider it.
Do we have to use the GRI Framework?
- This depends. GRI is recognised as the most widely used sustainability reporting framework and when used correctly it ensures that the report is comprehensive and provides the data that stakeholders want to read. However there are many other guidance documents and standards which provide a different approach to sustainability disclosure. You should also consider if there is a reporting framework that has been developed specifically for your industry.
We are an SME / we have a limited budget: is sustainability disclosure still possible?
- YES: low cost sustainability disclosure is possible. The GRI has a Level C Report Template , which covers the basic requirements of the GRI. It can be used by organisations as a starting point for future, more comprehensive disclosure. Any organisation which fully completes this 15 page document will have produced a GRI level C report.
Note that further cost savings can be made by posting the report on your organisation's website, rather than printing paper copies of it and by deciding not to have the report assured by a third party.
What format should the report be in? Online, paper copy or both?
Each report format has its merits, but here are some things you should consider before choosing your approach:
- Printed reports can be distributed at client meetings, recruitment events, to the media and so on.
- Weblinks to your online report can be very easily distributed via email to a wide range of existing contacts.
- Not all of your stakeholders will have internet access, so the online report may be inaccessible to them.
- Online reports are searchable, which allows specialist stakeholders to look for the data that they are most interested in.
- Printed reports can have a large carbon footprint and do not convey a "sustainable" message, because of the large amounts of paper used. Organisations can reduce this impact though, by using sustainably-sourced or recycled paper and by ensuring that the report layout does not have excessive white space or over-sized images.
- Some people prefer to be able to hold a hard copy of the report, to browse through or to read whilst on the move.
- Online reports can be printed by the reader, which means that you cannot control the type of paper (or number of misprints!) that they use.
What level of GRI report should we aim for?
GRI reports can be evaluated and rated as level A(+), B(+), or C(+). A common misconception is that the level is an indication of the report quality, or even of the reporting organisation's sustainability performance.
In fact, the level is an indication of the extent of the disclosure when compared to the complete list of GRI indicators, with A being the fullest amount of disclosure and C being the minimum.
The additional "plus (+)" can be gained by having third-party assurance of the report.
Do we have to get our report assured?
NO, not necessarily. Third-party assurance is not mandatory but it has many advantages. Firstly, as mentioned above, if you produce a GRI report, with third-party assurance you can get a "plus (+)" level.
Assurance enhances the credibility of the data in your report by introducing an independent assessment of the information. Assurers can also help to identify weaknesses in your data collection processes and make recommendations for improvement.
Who should we use for assurance?
Some organisations prefer to engage the larger, internationally-known assurance providers to assure their sustainability disclosure because they feel that this is more credible than other assurance providers. However, some independent assurance providers can bring niche expertise, such as sector-specific knowledge or geopolitical insights, which lends a different type of credibility to the assurance which they can provide.
An alternative approach to assurance - although not recognised by GRI as formal assurance - is to invite an expert stakeholder to review your report and provide a statement about it. To be meaningful, the stakeholder should be independent and have some recognised expertise in an aspect of your business's sustainability. For example, an academic or a member of a non-government organisation (NGO) would be a good choice.