• Private Sector Impact on Environment is Key for Green Economy

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Private Sector Impact on Environment is Key for Green Economy

Feb 25 2011

The transformation to a green economy will require fundamental changes in how business is conducted in both the private and public sectors, according to speakers at the recent Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) event at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council in Nairobi.

At the special event “Managing what you measure : Sustainability Reporting and Indicators to manage the change to Green Economy”, speakers from the Italian and South African governments, the Nigerian bank Access Bank Plc., UNEP and GRI will discuss how sustainability reporting frameworks and performance indicators could help the private sector reduce its impact on the environment.

GRI, a UNEP Collaborating Centre, provides the world’s most widely-used framework for producing sustainability reports. The Sustainability Reporting Framework lets large and small companies, non-profit organizations and government bodies worldwide assess their sustainability performance and report on the results. Transparency through reporting on economic, environmental, social and governance factors drives the sustainability of individual organizations and, ultimately, the global economy. GRI’s key goal is to make sustainability reporting a mainstream practice.

Today’s event marks the first time GRI has been invited to the UNEP Governing Council. The invitation reflects increasing recognition by governing bodies that reporting is important and that the private sector has a large role to play in the shift to a sustainable economy.

Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, a speaker at today’s event, said: “At GRI we hear countless examples of the business case for reporting on sustainability. So why isn’t every company reporting? The world has gone into ecological overshoot every year since 1987. We are literally burning extremely valuable non-renewable resources and changing our climate to boot. One in six children is engaged in child labor often under hazardous conditions. There is something we’re missing, and the private sector is part of the solution.

“The transition to a resource-efficient sustainable economy requires fundamental changes in how business is conducted in both the private and public sectors – how strategies are set, investments targeted and priorities for action are defined. We need to manage this change. By mainstreaming sustainability reporting in the private sector, we can identify the areas of performance that need to be improved in order to protect our planet and our future,” added Ernst Ligteringen.

Databases currently list over 4,500 sustainability reports produced by companies worldwide. A large proportion of these are registered as GRI reports, and many more are based on the Guidelines. The GRI Guidelines help companies to be transparent about their impact on society, paving the way to a green economy and ultimately sustainable development. Every year GRI sees an increase in the number of reporters. However, there are an estimated 82,000 Multinational Enterprises globally, so the private sector still has changes to make in order to become transparent.

Governments could help bring about these changes by adopting a ‘report or explain’ approach to sustainability reporting – they could require companies to report on their sustainability performance or explain why they do not report. According to GRI, this is one way to achieve its mission: to make reporting standard practice worldwide.

The panelists speaking at today’s side event, including Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, and Cornis van der Lugt, Coordinator: Resource Efficiency at UNEP, will provide an overview of the key trends in sustainability reporting to the audience, which will include ministers from around the world.


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