The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) on Wednesday kicked off its fifth global conference in Amsterdam, with GRI chief executive Michael Meehan marking the event as “creating the next era of corporate disclosure, where sustainability information promotes transparency, trust and confidence in the world’s companies, policies and economies.”
Themed “Empowering Sustainable Decisions”, the three-day event will host 1,200 participants from 77 countries and feature discussions from sustainability reporting standards to smart policy-making and technological innovation.
In his opening remarks, Meehan outlined his vision for the industry. A key question is whether reporting will be a catalyst for true sustainability improvements, he said.
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“We’ve entered an era, right now, where it’s becoming impossible for companies, or even governments, to operate behind closed doors,” he added.
While sustainability reporting objectives and methodology have matured, information technology and big data practices will open up new methods of accessing and analysing the information, he noted.
And as the GRI standards continue to evolve, Meehan emphasised the need for an open approach and common platform for transparency.
The conference follows days after the UK government’s Anti-Corruption Summit 2016, where a number of governments agreed to create public registers of true company ownership in response to the Panama Papers.
“The Panama Papers are yet another demonstration of how insufficient transparency erodes public confidence in business and governments. This loss of trust undermines the conditions needed for economic growth, and transparent and sustainable development practices and policies are required, ” said Meehan.
Currently, the GRI community comprises thousands of organisations that span 90 countries, 38 sectors, and 28,000 practitioners.
At least 40 countries reference the GRI sustainability reporting standards in their domestic legislation and policies, including governments such as Norway, Japan, and India. The standards are also referenced by stock exchanges and regulators such as Singapore and Brazil.
GRI said it will be announcing several new collaborations at the conference, and will also be updating participants on GRI’s transition from the current G4 Guidelines to the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards).