A Look at GRI Application Level Declaration Statistics

A concern of many first-time reporters seems to be their approach to GRI Application Level Declaration. How many reporters do you think declared A-level, B-Level and C-Level? And what is your guess how many skipped the GRI Application Declaration altogether?

GRI requires that reporters following its G3 (Third Generation) sustainability reporting framework should declare a so called GRI Application Level. These are designated A, B or C with a “+” if part/all the report/data was also externally assured (the latter a hotly debated topic and not be be confused with GRI Check/Third Party Check - and not addressed in this blog entry).

The Application Levels reflect the degree of coverage of the GRI reporting framework, such as approach to management discussion and analysis, and number of Performance Indicators reported on. Passing the midyear mark for 2010 and expecting that most 2009 sustainability reports have been published by now, it may be a good time to review the approach taken by reporters to address the – at times - dreaded question of declaring a GRI Application Level. Querying GRI’s 2009 Report List (dated 30 June 2010), I produced the attached bar chart (2009 GRI Application Level Stats 4 July 2010), a summary of which is also provided below. 

From 1,379 reporters recorded by GRI by the end of June 2010, 29% are listed in the A/A+ Application Level category, followed by 25% in B/B+ Application Level, and 21% in the C/C+ Application Level. You may also be surprised to read that 25% are listed in the Undeclared category.

Are you surprised about these statistics? What do you think is driving the large undeclared segment which make up a full quarter of all reports? And what is your recommendation for an appropriate GRI Application Level for a first-time reporter?

Mehrdad Nazari, Senior CSR, GRI & ESIA Advisor, PRIZMA, http://www.prizmablog.com and www.prizmasolutions.com

11 Comments to A Look at GRI Application Level Declaration Statistics

  1. S Kitchen says:

    You seem to be surprised at the level of non-declaration. My own experience of sustainability reporting leads me to be more surprised at the level of “A” declarations.

    Presumably these are self-declarations? How does a company determine its own level of coverage, and what value does such a declaration have?

  2. Thanks for your comments. Actually, there are more ‘assured’ (typically of the limited kind) A-level reports, a good portion of which has also been GRI Checked. Many still seem to think of those checks as some sort of ‘assurance’ or ‘quality check’ of the content of report. I took a look at the stats of GRI/Third Party Checks of reporters’ self declration in one of my earlier blog entries: http://prizmablog.com/2010/01/24/credibility-boost-through-gri-and-3rd-party-checks/

  3. […] my last week’s blog entry, I took A Look at GRI Application Level Declaration Statistics. The high percentage of undeclared reports intrigued me – so I dug a bit deeper. The largest […]

  4. Simeon Cheng, Group Environmental Manager at CLP Holdings, commented on LinkedIn:

    “Many report producers and readers are still confused that the levels are related to quality of the report. In actual fact, there are poor A level reports and very good C level ones. What one would readers rather have? Perhaps the reporters who did not declare the reporting level simply believe if their report is material and well presented, the level of covereage of GRI indicators would be unimportant.”

  5. Leeora Black, Managing Director, Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, commented in LinkedIn:

    “Mehrdad, your analysis of application levels is very welcome and interesting. By way of comparison, yesterday the Australian Council of Super Investors released a study of reporting in the top 200 listed companies (see the report here: http://www.acsi.org.au/recent-news/media-release-decrease-in-sustainability-reporting-practices.html ). It appears that in Australia there is a bigger emphasis on A/A+ reports (35% of GRI reporters compared to 29% globally) and fewer C/C+ reports (17% of GRI reporters compared to 21% globally). Does anyone have a view on why that might be the case?”

  6. And I responded to Leeora:

    Hi Leeora, ‘putting my critical analyst hat on’ I wonder if the limited number of companies reporting allows any real trend analysis. With a few dozen reports, 5% up or down does not mean much, does it? Some of the stats in the study seem more like noise or the proverbial nugget effect. – Looking at your question about more A/A+ reporting in Australia, I am not sure why the study did not look/discuss sectoral composition of the ASX 200 and/or associated influences. The “nugget effect” may well be driven by leading mining companies, which, I would suspect to be well represented in the ASX200. Many of the larger ones are probably multiple-listed mining companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto, which may also be members of ICMM. This means they are long-time sustainability reporters and/or have committed themselves to GRI and A-level reporting. This may be one explanation given Australia’s mining context.

    But allow me also to make another point. Having recently helped three listed, junior to mid-tier mining companies with their inaugural sustainability reporting, I feel that perhaps others in that size range of the ASX 200 (ex 100) are missing some low hanging fruits. Many of these companies could probably leverage their EXISTING systems and data to produce credible sustainability reports which would readily achieve GRI B-Level and meet the need of a variety of institutional investors. Allow me to point those with “reporting angst” to my recent article in the Mining.com Magazine entitled “Sustainability Reporting using GRI: Lessons Learned” which is available here: http://www.prizmasolutions.com/Resources.html . I have also blogged about cost drivers of inaugural sustainability reporting here:

  7. Rim Tanta says:

    You did not define your study region and/or the companies’ sectors. Does the total 1,379 represent the total number of companies worldwide that produced a sustainability report according to the GRI? or in North America only? Do you have disaggregated data that could illustrate the type of companies that declared A/A+ application level versus B/B+, C/C+ and undeclared category? If yes, we should be able to come with some conclusions on which companies prefer to declare A, B, or C level and in which parts of the world. These kinds of conclusions should enable us to think about the companies’ reasoning beyond the GRI, i.e. national regulatory requirements, local CSR, industry best practices or stakeholders’ expectations.



  8. Hi Rim, Good points.

    The data is taken from GRI’s database and covers all reports they have included in that database from around the world for the year 2009. That list, which I think is incomplete, can be accessed and here: http://www.globalreporting.org/GRIReports/GRIReportsList/
    The list can be queried/disaggregated along the criteria you noted above.

    The total number of 1,379 reflects all the report entered by GRI into its global database for 2009. In fact, this does not mean that there are that many reporters. The entry year will cover, for example, reports from the previous year too. Hope this answers some of your questions.

  9. This blog entry made it to my Top 10 for 2010. Full list posted here

  10. […] Levels are not without its critics.  Sustainability consultant Mehrdad Nazari points out in his analysis of 1379 companies, 25% did not declare an Application Level.  Some of this can be attributed to the […]

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