In this post, we look beyond investors, and others whose focus is financial performance, to stakeholders that want to understand your company’s “impacts to the economy, the environment, and/or society.” To do this, we shift our focus from the SASB to GRI Multi-Stakeholder Reporting and GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards.
In our last post (Clear ESG Strategy) we explored the importance of linking environmental, social and governance, or ESG, strategy to your overall business strategy. We briefly examined how to use the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s “Materiality Finder” to determine what information is relevant to investors and other stakeholders who are interested in your company’s financial performance in the ESG, or sustainability, context.
What Is GRI?
GRI is an independent organization that provides standards for sustainability reporting for a multi-stakeholder audience.
There are ten reporting principles that underpin the GRI standards. The first of these is stakeholder inclusiveness. According to GRI, your stakeholders are those that “can reasonably be expected to be significantly affected” by your company’s activities, products or services, or “whose actions can reasonably be expected to affect” your company’s ability to realize its strategy or goals.
How Do You Identify Stakeholders?
Rather than telling companies who their stakeholders are, GRI provides guidance and examples of stakeholder groups. It is up to you to determine who your stakeholders are, and it is important to keep in mind that they may be inside or outside your organization.
Some obvious stakeholder groups are employees, investors, customers, suppliers, communities, and governments. Looking beyond the boundaries of your own organization, the workers employed by your supply chain partners may also be one of your stakeholder groups, whether or not they are aware of it. Even future generations that may be affected by your activities might be one of your stakeholder groups.
To be sure that you are thinking broadly enough, you can conduct surveys with your operational business units and functional groups to determine whether there are additional groups that are likely to be impacted by, or to impact, your business, and that should therefore be included in your stakeholder analysis.
What Do Stakeholders Care About?
Once you are confident that you have identified key stakeholder groups, GRI becomes more prescriptive. GRI reporting principle 1.1, Stakeholder Inclusiveness, states that “reporting organizations shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”
GRI expects reporting companies to have a process for taking stakeholder views into account in their reporting processes. GRI does not mandate how stakeholder engagement is to be carried out. Guidance can be found in GRI publications, as well as in other companies’ sustainability reports.
For example, in its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report, CBRE Group, Inc., “the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, based on 2020 revenue,” states that it engages with investors through quarterly earnings calls, investor presentations, events and one-on-one meetings. Engagement with employees is done via the company’s global employee intranet and by email, as well as through an employee engagement survey. The report lists engagement activities for each of its key stakeholder groups.
From Stakeholder Identification to Engagement to Materiality
Stakeholder identification and engagement are one way to hone in on what sustainability topics to report on. Another is doing a materiality assessment.
In an upcoming post we will cover what a materiality assessment is, and some of the ways that you can conduct one.
To learn more about multi-stakeholder reporting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.