, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 233-237

The Role of the Global Reporting Initiative's Sustainability Reporting Guidelines in the Social Screening of Investments

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Abstract

Social screening of investments calls not only for investment policy and criteria, but also for information about companies, their policies, practices and performance. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and its June 2000 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines have the potential to significantly improve the usefulness and quality of information reported by companies about their environmental, social and economic impacts and performance. The GRI aims to develop a voluntary reporting framework that will elevate sustainability reporting practices to a level equivalent to that of financial reporting in rigour, comparability, auditability and general acceptance. This will be a welcome and efficient supplement to the questionnaires, interviews, press releases, media reports and other sources of information traditionally used for screening in investment decision making – social/ethical and mainstream. The Dow Jones Sustainability Group Index, the Jantzi Social Index and the Innovest EcoValue'21 analytical platform, together with the SRI community, are all likely to benefit from GRI-style sustainability reports. One of the GRI's key challenges is to accommodate the broad variety of disclosure needs and expectations of a wide range of report users and company stakeholders. To maximize the usefulness of the GRI Guidelines, report users, including the SRI community, need to be engaged in the process of developing and refining the Guidelines over time. The GRI Guidelines are emerging as an important instrument in enabling companies to communicate with their stakeholders about performance and accountability beyond just the financial bottom line.