Will GRI be able to catch up with IPIECA’s lead?

While GRI is still completing its first-generation Oil and Gas Sector Supplement, IPIECA scores more endorsements for its second generation sustainability reporting guidelines. Will GRI be able to catch up?

As detailed in a previous blog, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) jointly published the second edition of the Oil and gas industry guidance on voluntary sustainability reporting (the Guidance) in December 2010. The development of the Guidance also included the use of an external expert panel, which I highlighted in an earlier blog.

According to a recent IPIECA notice (Aug 2011), the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI), the South African Petroleum Industry Association (SAPIA) and the Regional Association of Oil and Gas Companies in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARPEL) have endorsed IPIECA/API/OGP’s Guidance. CPPI described it “as the most practical, authoritative and comprehensive tool available on sustainability reporting for oil and gas companies”. IPIECA boasts that, by early August 2011, its Guidance had been downloaded over 2000 times.

It is interesting to note the contrasting approach adopted by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), an industry club of major mining and metals companies and global commodity associations. ICMM closely collaborated with and supported the development of GRI’s Mining & Metals Sector Supplement. As described in a previous blog, 15 of ICMM’s 18 member companies obtained an ‘A+’ GRI Application Level for their sustainability reporting. This is impressive – and - in part - perhaps a consequence of ICMM’s formal adoption of GRI-based sustainability reporting to the highest disclosure level (A) combined with a commitment to external Third Party Assurance on behalf of its member companies (about which I blogged also here: A Little Secret – Sustainability Leadership at the Business Roundtable). It seems that other important mining associations are also moving towards GRI as I blogged here: Are Canada’s PDAC and MAC embracing GRI?

My 10 August 2011 query of GRI’s Report List for the 2010 period identified 89 GRI-type reports for the ‘Mining’ sector and 143 in the ‘Energy’ sector (which is not limited to oil & gas). It will be interesting to note how many more oil & gas companies will start publishing their sustainability/CSR reports using IPIECA’s recent Guidance and/or GRI’s emerging sector supplement.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…. GRI is in the process of finalizing its Sector Supplement for the oil and gas sector. The final pubic consultation process was completed in July 2011. GRI targets the release of its final Sector Supplement for late 2011.

What is your take of this parallel development? Do you feel that the second edition of the IPIECA/API/OGP Guidance will help break through an apparent 'GRI Glass Ceiling' and materially increase the uptake of sustainability reporting in the oil & gas sector? And who do you expect will win what is a de facto competition of sector specific sustainability reporting guidelines: GRI and current users of its gramework on one side and IPIECA and other industry associations on the other?

About the author: Mehrdad Nazari (MBA, MSc, LEAD Fellow) is a Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability Reporting & ESIA Advisor, and Director of Prizma. He was previously an environmental consultant with Dames & Moore, Principal Environmental Specialist at the EBRD and CSR Research Director at CoreRatings. Mehrdad is a GRI-approved trainer on GRI's sustainability reporting framework and a licensed AA1000 Assurance Provider.