GRI launched NGO Sector Supplement – but what for?

GRI’s 2009 list of Non-Profit/Services category lists 40 reporters worldwide, although perhaps 1/3 of these may be listed in the wrong category. From 31 December 2011, reporting with the NGO Sector Supplement will be required for NGO reports to be recognized as GRI Application level A.

It’s not clear if GRI is simply sloppy about maintaining its (still valuable) list of reporters or if there is a more fundamental problem about classification based on notions of profit, ownership or legal structure.

In this list, I was happy to find organizations like Oxfam UK and even the Korean Standards Association. But finding General Motors Argentina, Henry Davis York, one of the largest law firms in Australia, Yanacocha, and one of Peru’s largest gold mines in the NGO category is probably just evidence of sloppy data entry and lack of a sensible review system.

Once these sorts of mistakes have been remedied, there may be more interesting questions to consider. For example, will such a ‘spring cleaning’ remove the Zuercher Kantonbank, which is a publically mandated financial institution but – according to its report – used the GRI Financial Sector Supplement? Or should the US Postal Services be included in this category?

Perhaps other questions to consider: why have barely 30+ (?) NGO reporters (around the world!), a negligible number when you consider size and importance of this sector, adopted the GRI framework? Was it really the lack of an NGO Sector Supplement? And will the newly established requirement to follow this NGO Sector Supplement to achieve an A-level help tackle this problem? I would welcome your thoughts, especially if you work with NGOs/non-profits

The NGO Sector Supplement is now available for downloading here. The main sector topics considered particularly relevant to NGOs are the following: Stakeholder Engagement,  Program Effectiveness, Gender and Diversity, Public Awareness and Advocacy, Coordination, Resource Allocation, Ethical Fundraising, Labor/Management Relations, Prevention of Corruption.

2 Comments to GRI launched NGO Sector Supplement – but what for?

  1. It feels as if GRI is doing very little in terms of motivating or supporting NGOs/NPOs to report – strange if you ask me, since you would definitely have much to gain from having more NGO reporters (why is the category called NPO, but the sector supplement NGO by the way?):

    – NGOs currently have much fewer reports to look at, and with generally scarce resources it is hard to devote time and effort to analyze and benchmark the organization compared to best practice, and then how to improve. More reports would definitely help NGOs in developing.

    – The NGO sector, considering its grass-roots and bottom-up history of decision making and implementation, ought to be able to showcase fantastic examples of e.g. stakeholder engagement and CSR project evaluation, which many companies definitely could benefit from looking at.

    – The potential for forming strategic partnerships between reporting NGOs and companies is potentially unlimited – the company would get a partner for helping out to identify issues or maybe even performing “proxy CSR” (not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the company is unclear about how to e.g. reach out to its stakeholder communities), and the NGOs, often full of people will big hearts but somewhat lacking in organization and strategic planning skills, would be able to use its partner company for developing these skills through being part of planning processes etc.

    – And, of course, much more that we will only become aware of as the number of NGO reporters increase…

  2. Thanks for your comments, Henrik. Yes, there is a missed opportunity so far. In addition to all the good examples which could emerge, the reporting process may also help improve performance within the NGO sector. It may help transition some NGOs from being “ego vehicles” (if you allow me to over simplify to make a point) to pursue more strategic objectives. It could help benchmark NGOs and – in appropriate cases – uncover opportunities for mergers (to help reduce transaction cost, for example) or enable scaling up impacts, which is a major challenge in that sector.

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