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Corporate Sustainability Reporting Guidelines set new standard for transparency

Paris, July 2000 - UNEP has released revised Sustainability Reporting Guidelines developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) through a global, consensus-based process. The Guidelines make recommendations for reporting on the economic, environmental and social performance of companies and represent a major step forward in elevating sustainability reporting to a level consistent with financial reporting.

The June 2000 GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines: on economic, environmental and social performance are available at www.globalreporting.org The Guidelines will during this year be translated into several languages.

Convened in 1997 by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the GRI has worked closely with a diverse group of stakeholders, including multinational corporations, accountancy bodies, non-governmental bodies, and investors to develop a generally accepted, global framework for sustainability reporting at the organizational level.

Leading corporations have reported on environmental performance since the early 1990s and more recently have added social aspects to their reports. However, with no formal requirements to report on specific indicators or to report in a particular fashion, corporate sustainability reporting has been inconsistent and selective. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines provide first-time and seasoned reporters and reviewers with guidance on reporting principles and recommendations for report content. The Guidelines include generally applicable indicators in the three categories that comprise sustainability: economic (e.g., wages, community development); environmental (e.g., waste generation, energy consumption); and social (e.g., workplace issues, human rights). The environmental indicators have been subject to a year of rigorous testing and assessment. The social and economic indicators are presented as experimental during 2000-2002.

For UNEP, the GRI is an important initiative in its long-term commitment to strengthening the role of business in sustainable development. The UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics has for many years worked to stimulate individual companies - and industry associations through their membership - to report on their environmental performance and the implementation of their voluntary commitments in the form of codes of conduct and charters. Since 1994, UNEP and the London-based Sustainability Ltd have produced over eight reports on corporate sustainability reporting through its joint Engaging Stakeholders Programme. This programme is designed to meet the ever-increasing demand for the benchmarking of corporate sustainability reports, and the further analysis of sustainability reporting at the sector-level. UNEP's key role in GRI since its inception is a logical extension of these reporting activities.

UNEP is also one of three key UN Agencies working with the UN Secretary General's Global Compact Initiative. UNEP is serving its role as a facilitator, by bringing together it's UN, private sector and NGO partners under the GRI umbrella to ensure that the GRI Corporate Sustainable Reporting Guidelines are a practical tool to implement this Global Compact. The June 2000 GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines reflect the contributions of hundreds of individuals and organizations worldwide that participated in a highly consultative process since the release of draft guidelines in March 1999. Representatives from business, non-governmental organizations, and government provided numerous suggestions for improving the draft version. Two dozen companies formally pilot tested the 1999 Guidelines, many more provided feedback, and several already have published GRI reports. The June 2000 release also benefited from the thinking of labor, human rights, environmental and investor groups from around the world. The guideline development process has been intensive, multi-stakeholder, and international.

Next steps for the GRI include strengthening its engagement with stakeholders worldwide and continuing to test and refine the June 2000 Guidelines. To achieve its vision of a generally accepted reporting framework, the GRI is starting to build a permanent institution that is truly global, multi-stakeholder, independent, and continually learning. The Global Reporting Initiative is funded by numerous foundations, in particular the United Nations Foundation.

For more information please contact: Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, Director, UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, 39-43 quai Andre Citroen, 75739 Paris, Cedex 15, France, Phone: 33.1.44.37.14.50, Fax: 33.1.44.37.14.74, Email: uneptie@unep.fr, URL: http://www.uneptie.org

Information Note 00/35

Friday 21 Jul 2000
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