How Useful Is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Reporting Framework to Identify the Non-financial Value of Corporate Social Performance (CSP)?

  • Elizabeth-Anne Thomas
Part of the CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance book series (CSEG)


In 2010, Wood, renowned in corporate social responsibility (CSR) discourse for her definition of corporate social performance (CSP), called for a “ceasefire” to further research analyzing the relationship between CSP and financial performance (FP), (Wood, International Journal of Management Reviews 12:50–84, 2010: 76). Her frustration arose after concluding that CSP literature had developed away from the foundation of CSR theory and its central contribution towards stakeholders and society. Indeed there have been more than three decades of CSP-FP literature (Bird et al., Journal of Business Ethics 76:189–206, 2007; Garcia-Castro et al., Journal of Business Ethics 92:107–126, 2010; Van der Laan et al., Journal of Business Ethics 79:299–310, 2008), and still a conclusive relationship is yet to be defined (Barnett, Academy of Management Review 32:794–816, 2007; Murray and Vogel 1997). By shifting focus back onto stakeholders, this essay aims to explore the non-financial value of CSP. Through qualitative research, this essay empirically analyses feedback from senior CSR managers who have published CSR reports following one of the most renowned CSR reporting frameworks in the industry; the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. Multiple case-studies were conducted with semi-structured interviews to explore whether the current GRI framework; the ‘third generation’ GRI guidelines, allows its adherents to measure the non-financial value of its social and environmental outcomes; otherwise known as CSP. Not one of the respondents felt that GRI allowed them to measure the non-financial value of their CSP. If internal stakeholders are unable to measure this value with assistance from the framework, the report will also fail to expose the real value of CSP on society, and external stakeholders will remain blind, ill-informed and unable to interpret CSP and appreciate its worth for themselves. This is worrying because the inability to identify the true worth of CSP limits accountability capabilities, and will allow organisations, if they so wish, to continue to pay lip service to CSR, with CSR operations that have no non-financial value.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth-Anne Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent Non-Profit Sector ConsultantNew YorkAustralia

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