Does Australian/ASX 200 sustainability reporting practice show weakness of ACSI or glass ceiling of GRI?
Prompted by an on-line exchange about GRI Application Level statistics with Leeora Black, Managing Director,
The annual study, now in its third year, measures progress of listed Australian companies with respect to sustainability reporting. And it provides some somber reading. The
The main conclusion ACSI draws from its research is that “the majority of ASX 200 companies are yet to provide sufficient reporting on their performance against sustainability risks, thus indicating that they do not fully appreciate the materiality of these factors.”
While it is always tempting to point fingers at others and underline their ‘stupidity,’ I wonder if there is room for other conclusions:
First, does the limited number of sustainability reports (using GRI or other approaches) allow a real trend analysis?
Second, does a declining trend (if that is the case) perhaps point to the failure of ACSI’s engagement strategy and - more broadly -the failure of the broader CSR/investment community (that includes me!) to make a more convincing case for and provide assistance with sustainability reporting?
GRI's 2009 database shows only 72 sustainability reporting entries for Australia. Noting ACSI’s conclusions and limited number of reporters in Australia, I wonder how GRI is planning to achieve its two main propositions that:
(a) by 2015, all large and medium-size companies in OECD countries and large emerging economies should be required to report on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance and, if they do not do so, to explain why; and
(b) that, by 2020, there should be a generally accepted and applied international standard which would effectively integrate financial and ESG reporting by all organizations.
Overall, I remain surprised that so many companies (listed or not) do not leverage their existing corporate ethics & values, policies, systems and performance data to also generate a simple sustainability report without major cost implications. (See also some of my previous blog entries: What are Cost Drivers of Sustainability Reporting for First Timers? and Has GRI Reached Glass Ceiling? and attached article Sustainability Reporting using GRI Lessons Learned Nov09).
Do you feel ACSI – and others – may need to change engagement and support strategies? Do you feel that GRI may be setting itself up for failure? And how can Australian companies (and others) be further encouraged and supported to explore sustainability reporting?