Effort to Measure Social, Environmental and Economic Performance of Companies Receives $3 Million Grant From United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has received a grant totaling $3 million over two years from the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to support the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), an international effort designed to develop guidelines for measuring the social, environmental and economic performance of multi-national companies. The grant will be administered by UNEP through its Technology, Industry, and Economics Division based in Paris, France.
Convened by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres), the GRI includes, among others, representatives from UNEP, other UN agencies, environmental organizations, accounting bodies, and corporations. With the information that companies report using the GRI framework, non-governmental organizations, governments, investors and others will be able to measure the progress of companies worldwide toward improved social and environmental performance. The GRI was established in late 1997.
Although hundreds of companies around the world have begun to release information about their social, environmental, and economic performance and policies, never before has that information been consistent, verified, or comparable. The GRI introduces a method of measuring and comparing corporate performance via the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The Guidelines were released at an international symposium in London held in March 1999, and are currently being pilot-tested by multi-national corporations such as General Motors, ITT/Flygt, Procter and Gamble, Novo Nordisk, and Shell International.
"By making this award, the United Nations Foundation has once again placed itself on the cutting edge of supporting new and innovative international partnerships," said Robert Kinloch Massie, the chair of the GRI Steering Committee and Executive Director of Ceres. "The Global Reporting Initiative is likely to become one of the most important institutions of the new global economy. Soon consumers, corporate shareholders, financial analysts, and corporations themselves will be able to assess the real impacts of business practices and make informed decisions using that information."
The GRI joins 34 other international projects to have received grants from UNF totaling $51 million. Founded and chaired by media businessman Ted Turner, the UNF supports projects of United Nations agencies in the areas of environment, human rights, health, and women and children's issues. The GRI is the only project to focus on the area of global corporate accountability.
Amidst a global trend toward improving corporate performance and responsibility, the GRI award signals an international commitment to what has been termed "corporate citizenship." In January 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on corporations worldwide to "embrace, support and enact a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, and environmental practices." The Secretary General has since established the Global Compact, a UN-led inter-agency project to advance corporate accountability, sustainable development, and openness and disclosure in the globalization of the world's economies.
Currently the secretariat for the GRI, Ceres is a coalition of investors, public pension trustees, foundations, and environmental, labor, and public interest groups that encourages companies to improve their accountability and environmental performance through environmental reporting and multi-stakeholder dialogue. Ceres will continue to serve as the GRI secretariat until the project's formal institutionalization by 2002. For more information on GRI and Ceres, visit their web sites at www.globalreporting.org and at www.ceres.org.