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What organizations can help guide sustainability reporting?

While investing in sustainability is key to your triple bottom line, evaluating -- so you can promote -- those efforts is critical too. These four groups offer direction.

Once you've invested in supply chain sustainability, you may need to prove compliance to outside bodies, for example, regulators, environmentalist groups and industry watchdogs. You will also likely want to let the world -- and your customers -- know about your notable environmental and social responsibility achievements.

Some sustainability reporting and standards may be provided for you by industry or regulatory overseers. But apart from that, a number of voluntary frameworks can help guide your environmental and social responsibility efforts. Here are four organizations that offer such guidance and a quick look at what they offer:

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which includes member bodies from more than 160 countries, has developed and published the ISO 14000 series standards for environmental management. ISO provides a framework for your environmental management system (EMS) and guidelines on specific elements of EMS, but does not provide assessment. ISO has developed guidelines for specific industries including automotive, food, medical devices, petroleum and gas, and others. Companies may self-assess and self-declare compliance, engage third-party auditors to confirm compliance, or seek certification or registration of its EMS by an external organization.
  • The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has created what is considered to be the most widely used sustainability reporting framework. Developed by a network-based alliance of business, civil, labor and professional institutions, GRI has strategic ties to the United Nations, ISO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). GRI's fourth-generation reporting guidelines (G4) include reporting principles and standard disclosures and an implementation manual. GRI/G4 includes 81 indicators covering economic, environmental and social performance plus additional measures related to supplier relationships (labor), human rights, society and product responsibility.
  • OECD has developed responsible business conduct recommendations in the form of "Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises," addressing employment relations, environment, antibribery measures, consumer interests, science and technology, competition and taxation.
  • The United Nations Global Compact encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and to report on their implementation. The UN Global Compact has set forth 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anticorruption. Companies voluntarily "join" the Global Compact, pledge their commitment to the principles and use the guidelines provided for sustainability reporting on their compliance. The UN Global Compact claims to be the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative with 8,000 corporate participants and 4,000 nonbusiness entities in more than 170 countries. The Global Compact provides resources and guides, including documents that address analysis of goals, indicators for businesses and tools for stakeholders. The Global Compact is a voluntary effort with no formal assessment or certification mechanism.

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