When Titans Learn to Dance: GRI Partners with CDP + UNGC

Last Wednesday, the Amsterdam-based Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, the international corporate sustainability reporting standard setter) announced a linkage document with the London-based Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP, a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change reporting system).  This marked the second partnership within the past two months for GRI.  In late May, GRI announced a collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC, the largest worldwide organization of corporations committed to corporate responsibility and sustainability) to align their work.

These partnerships between GRI, CDP, and UNGC are akin to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey joining forces to assure that business, at the least, does no harm to people and the planet and, at best, advances the cause of sustainability, prosperity, and justice.

In other words, they’re titans in their respective domains.  At a time when pressure continues to mount on companies to disclose non-financial information, the fact these titans are working together in common cause can multiply the impact they have separately.  Yet because each has a unique style, it may take a while to get the choreography right. Nevertheless, they’re making the right moves.  Shall we dance?

According to the GRI – CDP press release, “the two organizations have agreed to collaborate and [provide] feedback on each other’s general and sector-specific guidelines and questionnaires.”  Specifically, over 1,300 organizations from 64 countries use GRI’s third generation (G3) guidelines to frame their sustainability reports.  At the same time, 2,500 global organizations report their climate change data in response to the CDP Guidance and questionnaire, which provides information to more than 550 institutional investors with some $64 trillion under management.  While the two reporting protocols have different scopes (GRI covers sustainability broadly, CDP covers climate narrowly), they overlap significantly. Harmonizing their standards make it easier for reporters and their stakeholder audiences to play their part in constructive ways.

As for the GRI – UNGC agreement, GRI will develop a guidance regarding the Global Compact’s ten principles and issue areas, while incorporating them into the next version of GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.  In its agreement with the GRI, the Global Compact committed to adopting the GRI Guidelines as the recommended reporting framework for the more than 5,800 businesses that have joined its corporate responsibility platform.  The move significantly enhances the Global Compact’s Communication on Progress (COP) that simply required signatory companies to report on the status of their adherence to the principles, a protocol that has come under intense criticism as lacking “teeth” to promote actual improvement in corporate responsibility and sustainability.

However tentative their first steps, these NGO titans are learning to dance together[*], which bodes well for the world.  It’s also a sign of how organizations can scale their impact and keep pace with change without losing their focus:  through strategic alliances; vibrant networks; reflective, purposeful stakeholder engagement; and continued assessment and fine-tuning.  Throw in interactive technology, and you have a powerful antidote to poverty, suffering, and injustice.  Now that’s music we all can dance to.

[*] A special bow to my former mentor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of the award-winning When Giants Learn to Dance.

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9 Responses to When Titans Learn to Dance: GRI Partners with CDP + UNGC

  1. Agreed scaling impact, strategic partnerships and continuous evolution and integration of these NGO’s is critical for business and society. Thanks, for the great review of these important partnerships.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the nod and Retweet, Jennifer. Organizations need to remain alert, flexible, and know how to adapt intelligently, so they don’t get stuck in their ways.

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  3. Menno Kuiper says:

    CSR is on a journey to become mature. I support all actions that lead to unity and globally accepted guidelines. However, these actions need to be high quality. To my humble opinion these are the challenges to the 3 organizations:

    GRI: create sector supplements that exclude factors from ‘standard GRI’
    CDP: Become more stable! Hold on to your demands for 3 years.
    GC: test the input you received.

    And: keep up the good work


  4. admin says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions, and keep them coming. There needs to be more widespread thoughtful, reflective conversation, don’t you think? Thanks for playing a part!

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  6. this all makes a lot of sense. Beg companies we were advising them to do so. It made no sense to have GRI sector supplement+CDP+COP+ CDP+thousand of other questionnaieres. But let´s not forget that this pieces of information are just information in order to help someone take a better consuming decision whether this is saving, buying or whatever it might be. We must help mainstream this wide information in the portfolio management as soon as possible. If not this will all be useless. What do I want to reveal my CDP-GRI information if the investor doens´t get to read it and aseesss the ESG risk he/she is avoiding by investing on me?. It is about time that all this information initiative are properly used. If not this GRI-GC and GRI-CDP agreements are totally useless. Regards,

    • admin says:

      Very good point, Tomas. The investor / portfolio manager role in this is key, and represents the next frontier, at least in the US. In the UK, there are efforts underway to address the important role of stewardship–so that investors are called to demonstrate their commitment to transparency, accountability, and sustainability. Stay tuned for our coverage on this critical (and often overlooked) piece of the accountability and sustainability puzzle.

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