Will G4 provoke a backlash? The new draft of the GRI Guidelines, G4, represents a step change in reporting. G4 is more demanding in terms of materiality, boundaries, the value chain and in other areas. This could provoke the somewhat childish response from companies that ‘it is just all too much’. And together with the potential removal of the application levels, which function as a reward system, the GRI may be at a turning point.
A hostile response to G4 would be a childish response because, if they are read with some attention, the GRI does not demand perfection. The guidelines provide for those that cannot meet every requirement or report on every indicator. It simply asks why not and what the company plans to do about it.
Such a thoughtful response would, unfortunately, be counter-cultural for the great majority of organisations. For most, a report that does not look ‘finished’ (and glossy) is seen as letting down the brand. The demands of PR outweigh the need to think strategically about sustainability and reporting – and perhaps sometimes the need to think at all.
The world does not need more polished sustainability reports. But it does need a more thoughtful process of reporting and a more serious exploration of what a company’s place in a sustainable world might be. The draft G4 GRI Guidelines are an important step in that direction.