These are some of the newest developments and challenges in sustainability worldwide discussed at the 5th GRI Global Conference, 18 to 20 May 2016 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Paia participated in this conference with more than 200 speakers and 1162 attendants from 73 countries – involving representatives from the Global Reporting Initiative GRI, the United Nations (UN Global Compact, UNEP, UNCTAD), many governments and stock exchanges including NASDAQ, investors associations and analysts such as Bloomberg and MSCI, in addition to hundreds of companies from all sectors, associations and academics.
- More regulation for sustainability reporting is a global trend, with 23 governments or stock exchanges putting regulation in place by end of 2016, on top of the existing 15 requirements. Among them is the Directive 2014/95/EU which will require non-financial disclosure by companies of public interest with more than 500 employees in the European Union, and of course the SGX Guideline, asking all listed companies to comply or explain from financial year 2017 onwards. Two thirds of the members of the World Federation of (Stock) Exchanges’ sustainability working group come from emerging markets.
- More and more companies manage to embed their material issues in their corporate strategy. The materiality assessment is not done for external stakeholders and reporting purposes, but part of internal strategy development. Paia, who is part of GRI’s GOLD Community, was invited to moderate at a Roundtable on Materiality which discussed how to make materiality analyses more effective.
- As IT improves, “big data” becomes easier to collect. The challenge is how to systematise it and use it efficiently. The conference also offered insights in newest software solutions for EHS data management.
- GRI is calling for a “new era of collaboration”, with a special focus on technology and innovation over the next five years. It will continue to ask companies to extend their sustainability practices beyond their own borders – reaching out to their supply chain as well as all finding new partners in the public, private or community sector.
- GRI also announced its newest technology initiative, the Digital Reporting Alliance. The Alliance will address the lack of structured data and the lack of demand for digital reporting.
- Regardless of using the term “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to Sustainability, EHS, ESG, and now new expressions such as “quality of life”, the discussion focussed on how to make “the S word” deliver to solve word-scale challenges. The United Nations expects companies to be the principle driver in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Experts and practitioners worked together to further develop sustainability standards and frameworks as well as Sustainability Assurance, including GRI’s transition from G4 Guidelines to Sustainability Reporting Standards (stay tuned with Paia to learn more soon!), Integrated Reporting and new ISO standards (e.g. ISO 45001 on safety).
- Trust and Transparency for building better businesses, stronger economies and a more sustainable world was the theme of the closing plenary of the conference. “Delivering a better future is not just an option, it’s a necessity. There is no Plan B,” urged Lise Kingo, Executive Director, UN Global Compact.
Paia’s Senior consultant Saskia Jung was one of only five representatives from Singapore.