Sustainability Reporting

7 Reasons why we like G4

At BWD we’re great believers in reports. Why? Because we’re great believers in the power and potential of business as an enabler of change. And done well, reporting – particularly sustainability reporting – is a useful way for business to gauge its true performance and impact.

For those of us who help clients produce reports, our jobs have been made easier by the good folks at the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) who’ve provided useful guidelines to promote non-financial reporting and improve its quality.

Since their inception in 2000, these guidelines have been through various iterations. In May last year, BWD attended the GRI conference in Amsterdam where the latest set – G4 – was released. Since then we’ve worked with clients to produce four G4 reports. We’re about to start on another three and this week we heard that one of the reports we designed for Fuji Xerox Australia has been nominated as a finalist in the 2015 CR Report Awards. Go team!

The more reports we do, the more we like G4. Here’s why:

You report on what’s important

Materiality sits at the heart of G4. What does this mean? Well, companies decide which issues are most important to it, its stakeholders, its sector and the wider operating environment; they develop processes to identify, prioritise and review these issues; and finally they discuss how they’re being managed.

Reporting in this way means that reports should no longer be long (and boring) tick-box exercises covering a host of irrelevant indicators, but rather a clear articulation of a company’s value, strategy, risks, opportunities and future plans.

You share the concerns of your stakeholders

When a company reveals who its stakeholders are, explains how it engages with them, details their concerns and how they’re responding to these concerns, we as readers have a far greater understanding of the context and environment in which the company operates. We get a sense of the issues emerging on the horizon and can assess how these may impact on the company’s business model and strategy.

You explain how your material issues are being managed

Simply put, being asked to describe how management is dealing with what’s most important to the business allows report users to assess whether they’re up to the task.

You talk transparently about your culture

Finding meaning in one’s existence is one of the most basic needs of the human condition. So it follows that finding meaning in work, where people spend so much of their time, is an important ingredient in individual wellbeing. The increased level of disclosure G4 requires on labour practices gives readers a good insight into a company’s culture. If a company is able to tell a compelling story about the way it treats its people, the report can become a great tool for recruiting – and for turning employees into brand advocates.

You show who’s responsible

For too long, the sustainability agenda has been driven by passionate champions who don’t necessarily have that much influence on the organisation’s leaders. By asking for specific details about governance, G4 should move accountability up to the top of the organisation where it belongs.

You talk about your impacts

Okay. Not everyone does this well – yet. But business now has an opportunity to look internally and externally and have a conversation about the broader implications of its activities. And once the conversation has started, it should become easier for a company to evaluate the impacts within its control and outside of it, and make the necessary changes, or partner with others if need be.

You show the link between business strategy and sustainability

Here’s hoping . . .



By Derryn Heilbuth