SIF Publishes Inaugural Sustainability Report

By producing inaugural, A-level GRI report, SIF joins NGO trailblazers which have published their sustainability reports using GRI’s NGO Sector Supplement – and are walking the talk.

The Social Investment Forum (SIF) is the U.S. membership association for professionals, firms, institutions and organizations engaged in socially responsible and sustainable investing (SRI). SIF’s report covers the 2009 calendar year. During this period, SIF had six full-time employees, approximately 375 members and one office location.

The report summarized SIF’s activities, ranging from SRI-related research and engagements, to lobbying the SEC and policy makers on the Hill. Financial sustainability was a major challenge for SIF in 2009. SIF closed that year with a deficit even after applying the usual cost-reduction measures such as reducing (paid?) working hours, cutting travel budget and post-poning projects. SIF’s declared strategic goals include creating a financially viable business model. Join the club, baby!

SIF took a bold (or is it simple?) approach sieving through GRI indicators, marking many with ‘none’, ‘not applicable’ or ‘zero’. This is a pragmatic approach which I can live with for inaugural reporting. A more formalized materiality assessment process, which expands beyond staff and board, could be considered for future reporting. With few (and perhaps not all very material?) exceptions, there are few quantitative disclosures provided in SIF’s report, although carbon related issues are expected to be covered in its next report.

Although it is good to know that SIF is composting its coffee grounds (me too, but not religiously), given its membership structure, I would have prioritized other issues. How is its membership developing over time and what is the turn-over rate? Does SIF encourage its members to produce GRI-types reports and how many/which ones have already publishing such reports?   

The report is short (except for lengthy GRI Index) and accessible. Except for an eye-catching cover page, the report does not have any ‘singing-and-dancing’ graphic design or ‘Web 2.0’ interactive/communication elements. The report is not designed to win any reporting awards, but SIF’s approach seems to be just right for a small but influential NGO which, recession notwithstanding, managed to publish its inaugural GRI reports. It would be great to see other NGOs follow in SIF’s footstep.

SIF’s report can be downloaded here (requires registration to receive download link). Do you think that publishing a GRI report (and using NGO Sector Supplement) will add any value to SIF and its activities? Or do you feel that this is a waste of SIF’s limited resources? What else would you have liked to see discussed in SIF’s sustainability report?