The SF State MBA program hosted two days of training on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), March 19-20. Trainers Carrie Christopher and Jeff Leinaweaver did a lovely job of demystifying the complexities of the reporting process.
The new version of the standards, titled G4, place particular emphasis on "materiality". That is, rather than giving a huge data dump, reporting companies are encouraged to identify and prioritize the most significant aspect of their operations and focus on telling the story of those aspects in some detail.
My team focussed on the report produced by the Gap, Inc. The report was lengthy and candid, but a little bit overwhelming. The report gave a nice summary of the company's response to the tragic collapse of a factory in Bangladesh, and did a good job of explaining the company's somewhat controversial response to the tragedy. I was also impressed that the report included comments from one stakeholder group which expressed disapproval of Gap's decision to pursue an independent approach to addressing the problems in Bangladesh. I wish that all companies were as frank about the feedback they get from stakeholders.
I came away impressed with the new G4 framework from the Global Reporting Initiative. Companies have grumbled in the past about the complexity of the GRI framework. This version won't eliminate those grumbles. But it does take a large step forward toward clear and comparable reporting of the relevant and material impacts a company has on society and the environment.