Making Reporting Relevant: Two sustainability databases
As businesses become more transparent, so databases populated with the information that businesses now disclose are becoming more sophisticated and opening up wondrous possibilities for discovery, comparison, benchmarking and all sorts of interesting facts and figures compilations. Hot off the press is the new GRI Database of Sustainability Reports, which is a repository of over 7,600 sustainability and integrated reports (GRI-based and non-GRI-based) which is searchable and offers possibilities for interesting benchmarking options. Another fascinating data base which drills right down to source ESG data, sector by sector, is the new Justmeans Insights platform which is a data visualization and performance dashboard (see the Press Release here).
The new GRI Sustainability Report Database is the product of several years work and broad collaboration with the GRI Data Consortium (my company, Beyond Business is the Data Consortium Partner for Israel). It is still in pilot phase, but is looking pretty good. The Database site was launched officially this week with a press release and a launch webinar which you can view here (Webex recording). Many bloggers have already rushed to report on the key features of this new database, such as Raz Godelnik on Triple Pundit, and Environmental Leader and Sustainable Planet. Here is an extract from the GRI Press release:
"The new Sustainability Disclosure Database includes data on the sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) transparency of over three thousand companies worldwide. Sustainability performance data is increasingly important to markets worldwide. In 1975, on average 80 percent of a company’s value came from tangible capital – finances and assets. Today, on average 80 percent of a company’s value is intangible – for example customer trust, brand value and stakeholder relations. The database is a hub for sustainability disclosure, featuring sustainability reports that use the GRI Guidelines and those that follow other guidance. The database includes references to sustainability guidance from different organizations, including the Carbon Disclosure Project, ISO, the OECD and the UN Global Compact. GRI plans to expand the scope and depth of its data collection and analytical functionality over time."
The GRI Reports Database
Here is an example of what you can do with the GRI database:
First, you can take an interest in the latest published reports or those which have been featured in the GRI communications service
Roche, Glaxo and Merck are all similar in terms of revenue size ($40-50 billion) while Allergen is much smaller with $US 5 billion.
Instant Relevant Benchmarking
This is a fascinating and instantly useful compilation of ESG data in a way which enables the perspective and context of relative performance accross different companies. Absolute energy consumption is affected by so many things beyond internal processes - size of production facilities, acquisitions, growth in production etc. - though ultimately, it's absolute measures which make a difference to the sustainability of the planet. By looking at absolute figures, you can see how companies' impacts have changed over time. In the first chart above, for example, data shows that Glaxo has been slightly reducing consumption year on year while Merck took a big jump from 2008 to 2010 (probably due to acquisition of Schering Plough). The other data you can pick up is which companies are not reporting on certain ESG indicators- which also tells a story. The intensity comparison gives the picture of where companies are in their peer group - I selected to include only 4 companies in the charts above - but it is possible to benchmark all or any selection of the 24 companies in the sector for every single performance indicator. ESG areas covered include environmental, social (workforce, human rights etc.) and governance data.
Making Reporting Relevant
Taken together, the GRI Reporting Database (free) and the Justmeans Insights Dashboard (subscription) are a major step forward in our ability to make sense of the much broader sustainability transparency that we are experiencing these days. The KPMG 2011 Reporting Survey, published to coincide with the database release, confirms that sustainability reporting has become the "de facto law" with 95% of the G250 now reporting. Reporting quality aside, GRI and Justmeans are now offering tools to help us make sense of it all. And when it makes sense, it will be much, much more relevant.
This article originally appearedon Elaine Cohen's blog. To view this blog post and others by Elaine, please click here.
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen on Twitter or via my business website www.b-yond.biz/en (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)