Why are GRI report publication dates shifting to later?
As 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?
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.
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?