Credibility boost through GRI Check or 3rd Party Checks?

 

Statistics of use of GRI Check and 3rd Party Check for 2009

Generating credibility and trust is the sustainability reporter’s quest for the Holy Grail. Do GRI Check or 3rd Party Check of the GRI Application Level declaration help report makers and user find the Holy Grail?

GRI’s data base of sustainability reports recorded for 2009 lists 1,251 sustainability reports.  Of those which declared their Application Levels, 37% indicate some form/level of assurance. Of the assured reports, 47% had a 3rd Party Check, 42% featured a GRI Check, and 10% relied on Self-Declaration.

Looking at the 496 reports which did not declare the use of an assurance process, 66% featured only a self declaration, while 28% obtained a GRI Check and 5% pursued a 3rd Party Check.

So what do all these checks and statistics really mean? As GRI confirms in its FAQ “the GRI Application Level check does not represent GRI's view on the value or quality of the report and its content. It is a statement about to what extent the G3 Guidelines have been reported upon. Therefore, GRI does not certify Application Level claims nor professionally assure the quality and the contents of the report.”

In fact, the same limitation also applies to a 3rd Party Check, which is perhaps little more than counting of number of profile disclosures and indicators contained in a GRI-type sustainability report. Despite misperceptions by some report users, neither GRI Check nor Third Party Checks provide any indication of quality of the report, the underlying reporting process (such as engagement with stakeholders) and accuracy of data/statements made (such as validity of greenhouse gas emission disclosure). See also my related blog postings (Is SIF’s GRI Study more Searching for Key under the Lantern and Sustainability reporting – Misperception and Barriers).

Do you think obtaining a GRI Check or 3rd Party Check adds value to sustainability reports beyond co-branding? Do you feel that some report users confuse ‘checks’ with assurance or stakeholder panels, and have you seen evidence of such confusion or inappropriate use?