Ted Turner’s charity gives $3 million for development of global environmental reporting

The United Nations Foundation (UNF), a charity set up by CNN owner Ted Turner, has given $3 million to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to continue its work into standardised corporate environmental reporting.

Draft GRI guidelines were published in March 1999 with 21 companies signing up to test them. Now, a $3 million grant from UNF will extend the scheme.

“The primary purpose of the grant is to increase participation in the GRI as a whole,” Robert Graff of the Tellus Institute – that advises on the GRI – told edie. “This includes bringing a broader group of participants into the process – more representatives from the South – and building an enduring structure.”

The overall aim of the GRI guidelines is to bring corporate reporting on sustainable development up to the standards reached by financial reporting. Originally the creation of an American NGO, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), GRI’s work is now jointly managed by CERES and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The $3 million grant will be administered by UNEP from its Technology, Industry and Economics Division in Paris.

GRI is an attempt to harness growing interest in the environmental impacts of business without confusing environmental report users with irrelevant or non-comparable information.

Addressing the future of corporate environmental reporting, the GRI secretariat believes that “customised reports increasingly will frustrate, rather than satisfy, confuse rather than illuminate, the many stakeholders who take sustainability information seriously and seek to incorporate it into their decision making. At the same time, reporting firms, already unclear as to the value of corporate environmental reports to their users, may eventually retreat from disclosure as a standard business practice. This is exactly the scenario GRI seeks to avert through a concerted, global effort toward harmonisation of the many disparate initiatives now underway”.

Of the 21 companies currently piloting the draft GRI guidelines, several have issued reports on their use of the guidelines, including General Motors, Eastern Group (a UK electricity company), Bristol-Myers Squibb (a US pharmaceutical firm) and Procter & Gamble.

“We understand that several companies outside the pilot test companies made use of the guidelines. In particular, Kirin Brewing,” says Graff.

A revised set of GRI guidelines will be published in May 2000.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie