Deadline to Red-Line: GRI Invites Input on Gender, Community, and Human Rights

The TakeAway: We outline proposed changes to GRI’s Gender, Community, and Human Rights reporting guidelines to help you submit comments by 23 August.

Consistent with its commitment to continual renewal through multi-stakeholder review, the Global Reporting Initiative is hosting a 90-day Public Comment Period for thematic revisions to its G3 Guidelines in three content areas:  Community, Gender, and Human Rights.  Six days remain to submit comments before the window closes next Monday, 23 August, so we’re making your job easier by surveying the proposed revisions.  (Another Public Comment Period for Report Content and Materiality continues through 22 September 2010.)

Three international multi-stakeholder Working Groups with representatives from a range of organizations and countries – including Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, India, Mongolia, South Africa, the UK, and the USA – developed recommendations for each of these areas.  The goal of the revisions is to make GRI’s current G3 Guidelines more relevant, transparent, and specific, without adding extra complexity to the reporting process.  Following the comment period, formal recommendations on these will be made to the GRI’s 10-member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which is responsible for delivering final advice to the GRI Board.  If approved, the recommendations will represent the first incremental changes to the G3 Guidelines, subsequently known as “G3.1”.

You can provide feedback on all three content areas by completing an interactive online public survey; a .pdf version also is available.  The survey is structured so you don’t need to do it all in one sitting—you can return and pick up where you left off.  A companion Reference Document provides a useful rationale for the proposed recommendations.

The Murninghan Post welcomes the chance to spotlight opportunities for participation, representation, and accountability.  Here’s a brief summary of the key revisions and questions as well as relevant links.  If you have questions that aren’t answered in the material, the GRI contact people are Katherine Miles for Gender and Bastian Buck for Community and Human Rights.

Gender |  The idea of gender-related edits to the G3 Guidelines emerged from an international multi-stakeholder process undertaken in 2008-2009 that led to the 2009 publication of Embedding Gender in Sustainability Reporting – A Practitioners Guide, written by GRI’s Katherine Miles and Carmen Niethammer of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).  The Gender Working Group has continued to recommend changes:  expand the scope of gender reporting; identify key gender issues / aspects that need to be covered; and measure and report on performance as applied to policy, process, and outcomes.  The IFC webpage on gender and reporting provides further perspective, as does WikiGender, an online platform to find and exchange gender information.

Community |  In 2007, with help from the University of Hong Kong and CSR Asia, GRI conducted research to gain insight into disclosure on community performance and impacts.  The findings appear in the 2008 monograph Reporting on Community Impacts, and point to the need for expanding and clarifying what  “community impact” means.  Most companies report on philanthropy and charitable giving, but not on how their business policies and operations affect communities.  The G3 Guidelines provide only one indicator (“SO1”, for “Society 1”), which the report deemed a “weakness” and therefore subject to review.  The Community Working Group focused on “community impact” as it relates to geographic communities, particularly with respect to business operations and activities rather than community investments or philanthropy.  Their proposed G3.1 revisions reflect this.

Human Rights |  In 2008, the GRI, the United Nations Global Compact, and the nonprofit Realizing Rights (founded in October 2002 by Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights with the collaborative project: “Human Rights – A Call to Action”.  Its aim:  foster greater integration of human rights principles into corporate sustainability reporting.  The project published two reports:  A Resource Guide to Human Rights Reporting (2009) and Corporate Human Rights Reporting: An Analysis of Current Trends (November 2009), written by independent human rights consultant Elizabeth Umlas.  It also formed a 15-person Working Group to provide consensus on a “state-of-the-art” model for human rights reporting and develop recommendations for tying this to the G3 Guidelines.  The rationale and recommendations of the Human Rights Working Group also “address the policy framework put forward by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie, and formulate disclosure expectations in the field of human rights due diligence and access to grievance and remedy mechanisms.”

With these resources and information at your fingertips, now please do your part and share your thoughts with GRI by next Monday.

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