Record number of companies disclosing sustainability impacts

1st December 2020 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Contributing Editor and Photographer

Record number of companies disclosing sustainability impacts

GRI chairperson Eric Hespenheide

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has welcomed KPMG research that shows a record number of companies, spanning many sectors and geographic regions, are voluntarily disclosing their sustainability impacts – with the GRI standards the most widely used for reporting.

GRI is an independent, international organisation that helps businesses and other organisations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing them with the global common language to report those impacts.

The '2020 KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting' found that 96% of the world’s largest 250 companies (the G250) report on their sustainability performance. In terms of the N100 – 5 200 companies comprising the largest 100 firms in 52 countries – 80% do so.

Across all companies surveyed, and according to the GRI, its standards are the only sustainability reporting framework that can demonstrate widespread global adoption. Around three-quarters (73%) of the G250 and two-thirds (67%) of the N100 now use GRI.

The KPMG report highlights trends towards global consolidation of corporate reporting requirements, which GRI supports.

What this emphasises is that the scope of sustainability reporting must include the full range of a company’s external impacts on the world, which go well beyond financially material factors, it states.

Other findings of the KPMG research include that in 14 of the 52 countries covered, including all geographic global regions, sustainability reporting rates now exceed 90%. Further, companies applying third-party assurance to their sustainability reporting has exceeded 50% for the first time.

Also, KPMG finds that, although most companies disclose Sustainable Development Goals- (SDGs-) related performance, more transparency is needed on their negative, as well as positive contributions to the SDGs.

GRI chairperson Eric Hespenheide says he welcomes that organisations around the world increasingly understand the importance of disclosing their impacts on the economy, the environment and society.

“Not only are their stakeholders demanding it, they realise that improved sustainability performance leads to more resilient and effective business practices.”

He adds that the KPMG research indicates that most large and mid-sized companies are deciding that the GRI standards “provide the most effective way” for them to disclose their sustainability impacts.

“By enabling reporting that is comprehensive and consistent, with widespread adoption, GRI offers a global common language for corporate transparency.”

Hespenheide, nevertheless, says that while the continued growth in sustainability reporting is encouraging, more needs to be done to drive up the quality and depth of disclosure.

“What is important is that companies apply the same rigor in communicating both sustainability and financial impacts. That is why GRI supports the mandating of sustainability disclosure, as being progressed by the European Union, as well as the International Financial Reporting Standards’ moves to ensure financial reporting reflects sustainability risks.”