Building a Sustainability Reporting Framework

Fri, 2013-12-06 09:52

According to data from the Sustainability Disclosure Database, sustainability reporting continues to increase on a yearly basis, with worldwide adoption rates. To improve the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, and Profit), organizations are looking to utilize a variety of measures to demonstrate compliance with sustainability ideas and principles. While the most popular reporting framework is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), there are also other popular standards upon which organizations can improve sustainable operations.

As a general outline, we will discuss the features and benefits of three key resources: GRI, United Nations (UN) Global Compact, and the International Standards Organization (ISO) 26000 Standard.

Sustainability Globe


Commonly used around the world, GRI is a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework that organizations can use to improve sustainable operations. Key features, such as the ability to set goals and manage change, are the driving force for utilization and the successful generation of sustainability reports. Some of the benefits of GRI sustainability reporting include:


  • Benchmarking: Organizations can assess sustainability performance in terms of compliance with laws, codes, norms, performance standards, and voluntary initiatives
  • Strategy: Improved strategic planning through long-term business plans
  • Risk Mitigation: Avoid environmental, social, and governance issues
  • Evaluation: Determining the impact of sustainable policies over the baseline


  • Competitive Advantage: Readily released sustainability reports can improve brand loyalty and reputation
  • Impact: Results disclosed via sustainability reports can have a major impact on the industry in which it operates, as processes and strategies can demonstrate innovation and leadership

UN Global Compact: Communication on Progress

Developed on the basis of business participation, the UN Global Compact serves as a strategic platform for corporations to demonstrate commitments to core sustainability values. With over 10,000 participants worldwide, the Global Compact provides the necessary elements to advance sustainability business development, including specialized workstreams, topical programs and projects, and management tools and resources. As emphasized on the UN website, there are 10 core principles that must be followed:

Human Rights

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
  • Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses


  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
  • Principle 4: The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor
  • Principle 5: The effective abolition of child labor
  • Principle 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation


  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges
  • Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility
  • Principle 9: Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies


  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery

ISO 26000: Social Responsibility

Created by the International Standards Organization, ISO 26000 focuses primarily on the social responsibility aspects of business operations. One of the unique benefits of the standard, its applicability to other reporting standards, is the reason for its strong adoption in sustainability reporting. In fact, ISO 26000 can be used in conjunction with both GRI and the UN Global Compact, making it a useful tool for sustainability reporting measures. In general, the standard focuses on three key areas:


  • Sphere of Influence: Addresses environmental risk management, promotion of substantive performance, control of climate change impacts, and adoption of environmentally sound technologies

Organizational Governance

  • Diversity of Organizations: Applicable to various organizations (of varying size and purpose), the standard emphasizes the governing needs to improve efficiency

Human and Labor Rights

  • People Protection: Ensuring that organizations are both ethical and compliant with human rights worldwide

The Future

In general, sustainability reporting can take a multifaceted approach to demonstrate adherence to the Triple Bottom Line. Although the most widely used standard is GRI, there are numerous organizations that combine the GRI framework with other standards in the generation of sustainability reporting. With increasing adoption, sustainability reporting is becoming a standard for business operations and one that is unlikely to dissipate in usage in the near future. It is likely that other sustainability reporting resources will gain prevalence in the future, which will further emphasize its importance in the public, private, and government sectors.

Currently, Everblue offers an ISSP Sustainability Associate course that provides the general framework for corporate sustainability implementation. For more information, please visit our information page, call us at 800-460-2575, or email us at Whether you are beginning the process of implementing sustainability reporting, or would like to understand more about sustainability strategies, Everblue’s course will provide the solid foundation for success.