Guest post: GRI’s four steps to reporting nirvana

Ethical Corporation columnist Peter Knight is at the GRI conference in Amsterdam. Here’s his view on the opening day’s proceedings

The opening day of the GRI conference was a love-fest for the GRI.

On Wednesday we heard how important the G4 was, how timely the launch of the guidelines, how clever the GRI was in devising them in 2.5 years, how broad the scope of the stakeholder engagement, how hard everyone worked, how perilous our future was, how much difference the G4 would make to the world…

We heard all this but nothing about the detailed content of the G4.

Instead the organizers teased their (high) paying guests with the promise that the detail would follow on day two.

The official “launch” of the G4 at the end of the first long day in chilly Amsterdam turned into a sort of Eurovision song contest where GRI officials congratulated each other in a jokey way. A man beat a plastic bucket and whistles were blown to celebrate the diversity in the room. “Welcome, Brazil!” “Hello China!”

Bizarre.

The G4 guidelines were handed out as you exited the hall – stored on a smart card. The cards soon ran out.

The G4 gist

Fine detail will follow. But here is the gist.

G4 asks reporters to concentrate on defining materiality and then reporting fully on what is material.

Materiality is everything, although it is still unclear what constitutes an acceptable materiality process.

There are two levels of reporting: Core and Comprehensive (no more As and Bs or plusses).

You can choose to report on the core disclosure categories or you can go all out and be more comprehensive in your reporting of the “specific standard disclosures”.

But the crux is your materiality analysis – that determines what you should disclose.

GRI sets out a four-step process for defining reporting content:

  1. Identification – this is the sustainability context in which you operate and your “boundaries”.
  2. Validation – the materiality and stakeholder “inclusiveness”.
  3. Prioritization – all about completeness.
  4. Review – this involves looking back at the last report to check context. And using this information to help you identify the content in the next reporting cycle.
As you can already see, these four steps are a linguistic minefield. We will unpack and interpret when we have the detail – as best we can. We hope with the help of the GRI once they have finished partying.

Peter Knight is the co-founder and chairman of Context Group. This posting first appeared on Context’s blog 

Details of the second day are here: G4Watch – Guidelines Revealed
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