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Global Reporting Initiative

Based in Amsterdam, GRI was founded in 1997 as a joint project of the nonprofits Ceres87 and the Tellus Institute.88 GRI takes a multistakeholder audience approach in its definition of materiality with the goal of identifying issues important for companies to consider in support of sustainable development. Its success in spreading the practice of sustainability reporting provides a strong foundation on which the integrated reporting movement can build. With 5,980 organizations producing sustainability reports in its database, GRI, like sustainability reporting, today has a much broader reach than integrated reporting.89 GRI and the IIRC differ in terms of their primary audience.90 Although the latter distinction will likely affect their definitions of materiality, the attention it gives to integrated reporting and the relationship it sees between integrated and sustainability reporting will be, as discussed in Chapter 5, important in adding to the momentum of the movement.

While GRI predates the IIRC by some 13 years, it has smoothly assimilated integrated reporting into its mandate since the IIRC's formation. At its third global conference in Amsterdam on May 26-28, 2010, GRI introduced two strategic propositions that anticipated IIRC sentiments: (1) "By 2015, all large and medium-size companies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and large emerging economies should be required to report on their ESG performance and, if they do not do so, to explain why," and (2) "By 2020, there should be a generally accepted and applied international standard which will effectively integrate financial and ESG reporting by all organizations."91 Importantly, GRI helped support the IIRC's mission by adding a section to its website to demystify the relationship between GRI Guidelines and the IIRC Framework. From GRI's perspective, sustainability reporting and integrated reporting are intrinsically related:

. . . organizations must identify the material sustainability topics to monitor and manage to ensure the business survives and expands. This step is at the core of the sustainability reporting process provided by GRI's Sustainability Reporting Framework. GRI offers companies guidance on how to identify material sustainability topics to be monitored and managed, and to prepare for the integrated thinking process, which is the foundation for integrated reporting.92

In May 2013, GRI released its G4 Guidelines (G4).93 Nelmara Arbex, former Deputy CEO of GRI, current Chief Advisor on Innovation and Reporting, and member of the IIRC Working Group, views GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (G4) and the <IR> Framework as complementary. "Where sustainability information is material to a company's ability to generate value, it should be included in an integrated report as proposed by the IIRC," she explained. "G4 provides a basis for executives to understand the link between everyday activities and strategy, offering a globally accepted language to communicate a company's values, governance structure, and critical social and environmental impacts."94

Concurrent with the release of G4, GRI released a report, "The Sustainability Content of Integrated Reports—A Survey of Pioneers," whose key findings further underline the value of a dialogue between GRI and the IIRC about integrated reporting.95

- "Large companies are driving the year-on-year rise in the publication of self-declared integrated reports around the world.

- Leading countries in this sample are South Africa, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, and Finland.

- Globally, the financial sector self-declares more integrated reports than any other sector, followed by the utilities, energy, and mining sectors.

- About a third of all integrated reports clearly embed sustainability and financial information together and this proportion is growing year-on-year. In tandem, an increasing number of reports now have the title 'Integrated report' and clearly discuss the significance of integration as part of their content.

About half of all self-declared integrated reports are two separate publications—an annual report and a sustainability report—published together under one cover, with minimal cross-connection."96

Unlike SASB, both the IIRC and GRI promote frameworks that are not country-specific. With an appropriate level of collaboration, the difference in jurisdiction and approach between these organizations should be collective strengths. As Christy Wood, the Chair of GRI, said, "The collective global thinking on sustainability is greater than the sum of its parts. These organizations [GRI, IIRC, and SASB] should be able to work together. If we have a united front, we can expedite and accelerate the uptake of integrated reporting."97

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