Why are GRI report publication dates shifting to later?

Image Best-Before 03As a GRI-G4 certified practitioner in sustainability reporting, I note an interesting trend. Reporting dates appear to show a forward shift (on average), although you might expect the opposite, as organisations get better at it. Why is this?

Blog by Peter Easton, Link: http://wp.me/p27qSt-Gm

A GRI aim is for Sustainability reporting to parallel Financial reporting, so why there an increasing lag? The graph below illustrates report uploading dates on the GRI database for reporting years 2009 to 2013, which though an imperfect measure of publication date, shows a clear trend.

GRI blog graph2

A rising number of reports is as expected, but what could be the explanation for the increasing lag?

  • new participants are less committed and efficient
  • economic concerns have lowered the priority
  • rising boardroom interest in sustainability reporting results in a more rigorous and multi-layered review process
  • a trend to more report assurance, with delay
  • rising workload due to GRI evolution cycles, combined with continuous improvement

Whatever the reason (perhaps a combination), a delay in publication reduces the value of the Sustainability report. This is a pity, given the effort and costs in sustainability programmes, data collating data, and report preparation. A later report, however good, may also be missed in benchmarking tasks.

A sustainability reporting task ‘picked up’ in the new year, some months after completion of the previous one, can result in an inefficient data collection exercise, and a challenge to re-engage data and story contributors. Ideally, it should be a continuous process, supported by a tailored database for routine uploading of data, information and stories. When well managed, most information is ready for the next round.

The overall message is: avoid approaching or passing the ‘best before’ date of your Sustainability report, and optimise reporting efforts and expenses. - What do you think are the reasons for slippage, and how can these be addressed? Are you getting more efficient at sustainability reporting, or do you find timing a growing challenge?

2 Comments to Why are GRI report publication dates shifting to later?

  1. James says:

    Hi, nice graph and a very important topic (especially given the drive to integrated reporting tending to align financial and non-financial reporting timetables).
    It would be interesting to see a split between G4 and G3.1 reporters to see if it’s the transition to G4 that is taking more time this year.
    Regards, James.

  2. Peter Easton says:

    Hi James. Thank you for the interest and comment. As the first G4 reports were published only from about August 2013, and a year later, we are still in the publication window of 2013 reports, it is in fact too early to assess the G4 pattern. For G3.1 reports, there is a slight indication of a latening trend, but with less than 3 full years of G3.1, its difficult to make a definitive conclusion.

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