The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) transitioned from issuing “guidelines” to more formal “standards” in October 2016. The new standards include the concepts and disclosures from the old guidelines, but provide a modular structure of three universal standards that apply to all organizations, along with a series of three topic-specific standards on economic, environmental, and social standards. More information on the GRI Standards can be found at https://www.globalreporting.org/standards.

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Sustainability-reports.com was created to be the “International Portal for Sustainability Reporting” and provides free public access to published sustainability reports, as well as related news articles.

Sustainability Report Examples

Sustainability-reports.com currently offers almost 40 separated and integrated nonfinancial reports from mostly European organizations. The reports provide excellent examples of what information can be presented, as well as text and data display options. The variety of formats ranges from downloadable PDF to more sophisticated web-page presentations. Several reports provide particularly good illustrations. Please note that while earlier reports follow the old GRI G4 Guidelines, the disclosures still provide helpful case studies.

AirFrance KLM, https://csrreport2017.airfranceklm.com/

GRI.

The GRI Annual Report for 2016-2017 was prepared following its own 2016 Standards (http://bit.ly/2lPj9G4). As a relatively small nonprofit organization, GRI has operations and impacts that are obviously substantially different from commercial enterprises. The highest value for CPAs in reviewing GRI’s report is perhaps educational, to see how GRI applies its own standards and presents the information. The report provides good examples of how to exhibit data in an interesting way for nonexperts.

Section 1 of GRI’s report explains how it identified its stake-holders, as well as what information is important to those stake-holders. Section 2 explains the importance of sustainability reporting and the maturing process of the GRI standards. Section 3 addresses how sustainability reporting can improve performance, particularly for small-to medium-sized organizations, summarizes GRI’s history, and provides a list and links to sustainability reporting partners. Section 4 covers documentation on the use of GRI standards and the GRI’s governance structure. Section 5 contains very useful examples of human resource information on new hires, turnover, and professional development. Section 6 presents brief financial disclosures, and Section 7 includes a listing of the numbered GRI standards.

AirFrance KLM.

AirFrance KLM’s 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Report is probably the highest-tech offering on the Sustainability-reports.com website (http://bit.ly/2NhUS8o); it is even viewable on a tablet. The webpage presentation includes “at a glance” data displays on operations, value creation, corporate social responsibility strategy, progress on sustainable development goals, commitments to stakeholders, risk management, and nonfinancial assessment, among other topics. Each section of AirFrance’s report can be separately viewed as an interactive webpage or in PDF. The web presentations also include some short videos.

The “at-a-glance” section of AirFrance’s report portrays operational and performance highlights and addresses five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, industry and infrastructure, affordable and clean energy, and climate action. The value creation section is particularly worth reviewing; it covers inputs, outputs, and outcomes, along with impact on society and the strategic business model. The “in detail” section highlights AirFrance’s CSR strategy, with emphasis on the environment, customer and employee experiences, and local development; it also discusses business sustainability, including CSR governance and a summary of statistical indicators (data) on CSR objectives. “Commitments” is the largest portion of the report and provides very interesting summaries on stakeholder engagement, duty of vigilance, safety, risk management, ethics, public positions, and nonfinancial assessments.

Dell.

The Dell Corporate Social Responsibility Report, “An Annual Update on Our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan,” is presented as both a web-format and a downloadable PDF and is structured in a way that is probably more familiar and comfortable to U.S. readers (https://dell.to/2KFnGci). The report outlines Dell’s goals with respect to supply chain, environment, communities, and people challenges and accomplishments in a management discussion and analysis-type approach.

Dell’s report begins with a “goals dashboard,” essentially a table with a brief statement of each goal and the current goal status in 2017, followed by two-to-eight-page discussions of the individual goals, which include numerous handy hyperlinks to underlying resources. The final section is a table of quantitative measures of Dell’s specific goals and GRI standards and includes a link to a 24-page PDF document of Dell’s GRI Content Index addressing each of the GRI standards (https://dell.to/2tWlFy5). The content index is a must-see for anyone attempting to follow and report on GRI standards.

Kendrion.

Kendrion, an electromagnetics components manufacturer, presents an integrated report that combines the financial statements with CSR (https://annualreport.kendrion.com/). Kendrion’s CSR information explains its strategy, identifies its stake-holders, and provides summary data, as well as a more detailed discussion on supply chain management, business ethics and compliance, sustainable operations, energy and carbon dioxide reduction, human capital, and health and safety.

Rockwool.

Rockwool is a Denmark-based company that manufactures stone wool products for building and other uses. Rockwool’s 2017 Sustainability Report focuses on operational and product impacts and provides very easy-to-read data displays. Its PDF report includes an appendix of key performance data and GRI index references that may be helpful to other companies as an example to follow (http://bit.ly/2KoaLfu).

Procter & Gamble.

Procter & Gamble provides good content examples in its 2017 Citizenship Report (http://bit.ly/2NjvZJA). P&G’s report, available as a downloadable PDF, covers ethics and corporate responsibility, community impact, diversity and inclusion, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability fills half of the total page count and offers good illustrations of how issuers can divide topics into smaller pieces and present information with a combination of discussion and data highlights.

Sustainability News

Sustainability-reports.com’s news feature includes content-rich original articles, as well as curated items from a wide variety of sources. “Sustainability in Search of Metrics” (April 2018) covers the increasing demand by regulators and stakeholders for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures and provides some suggestions on how to evaluate a company’s positive impact (http://bit.ly/2MFBzVd). On a related note, “For First Time, New Measure Can Capture a Company’s ‘Total Social Investment’” (May 2018) summarizes a study released by the CECP: The CEO Force for Good, which introduces a Total Social Investment (TSI) metric, targeting the “social” in ESG (http://bit.ly/2NjDyQv). The article links to the 24-page report on the application of the TSI metric, as well as the original working paper that provides background on the social component and the development of the measure.

“Accountancy Europe and WBCSD Analyze Ways to Strengthen Sustainability Assurance Practices” (May 2018) discusses the issuance of a report by Accountancy Europe and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development that recommends six steps for assurance providers to consider when reviewing nonfinancial information (http://bit.ly/2lPo3Tu). The report identifies specific International Standards for Assurance Engagements (ISAE) and addresses engagement scope, reporting criteria, and the form of the report. The assurance study followed an EU nonfinancial reporting directive, which requires over 6,000 large companies to disclose social and environmental impacts of their activities. The article provides links to download the 12-page study, as well as a connection to the specific EU directive.

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.