Archive for November, 2010

Sustainability Reporting

I recently attended a conference in Sri Lanka on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – G3 guidelines for sustainability reporting. GRI is the world’s most widely used and accepted sustainability reporting framework. The framework sets out the principles and indicators that organizations can use to measure and report their triple bottom line (economic, environmental, and social performance). Most importantly though it requests that companies place their sustainability reports in the public domain and requires that companies demonstrate their achievements towards the Millennium Development Goals.

In Sri Lanka only three publicly listed companies produce GRI sustainability reports for the public domain. This is less than 1% of the 232 companies, in 20 sectors listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Of these three companies, two are involved in the leisure sector; Aitken Spence and John Keells Holdings. As a comparison, there are only 8 Indian publicly listed companies, from a total of over 4,900 companies. Globally there are approximately 3,900 companies that report on their triple bottom line (TBL) in the public domain of which between 50 and 100 are from the travel, leisure and aviation industry.

Yes, sustainability reporting is still in its infancy as a concept and the figures in India and Sri Lanka show only a very small handful of companies are currently reporting on their triple bottom line impacts to ever more demanding and scrutinising shareholders, regulatory bodies and to the general public. These audiences want to see disclosure and greater transparency. They want to see both the positive and the negative triple bottom line impacts. They also want to see action plans towards maximizing the positive impacts and minimizing the negative impacts.

To date in most countries sustainability reporting is voluntary with the UK being one of the few exceptions. In 2006 when the UK Companies Act was revised it became a legal obligation for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to publicly report their impact on the environment and the community, and not just the company’s bottom line. There is still a long way to go before governments around the world make triple bottom line reporting compulsory.
The International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC) is working on a global accounting framework with the aim of integrating traditional financial reporting with TBL reporting. Companies will only have to produce one annual report and global sustainability comparisons between companies will be able to be made. It is unknown when this will come into play – it could take many years.

In the mean time all companies (not just publicly listed), governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), not for profit entities and even tourism destinations must move beyond financial and CSR reporting and commence reporting on the TBL transparently, with integrity and with a real and long term commitment to sustainability. Don’t just pay it lip service for the sake of producing a report or for the sake of a marketing ploy – your most important current and potential stakeholders will see straight through this.

Remember that sustainability is a journey and that journeys have to start from somewhere.
As a responsible tourism campaigner I actively encourage everyone in the tourism industry to take part in this journey and start reporting publicly your triple bottom line impacts!

Global Reporting Inititiative –
John Keells Sustainability Report 2009/10 –…/doc…/67-sustainability-report-200910.html
Aitken Spence Sustainability Report 2009/10 –
TUI Sustainability Report 2009/10-

November 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

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