The interest towards sustainable development is growing. In order to respond to this increased need of relevant information, companies could opt for non-financial reporting.
Non-financial reporting is closely linked to corporate social responsibility practices and procedures, to a company’s business strategy, as well as to its risk management policy. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have developed a reporting framework aimed at facilitating investors, governments and civil society organizations a common understanding and grounds for a pertinent comparison across corporate performance, no matter the industry or business model. Currently, GRI operates with G4. However, from January 1, 2018, GRI will switch to sustainability reporting standards (SRS).
Any sustainability report that meets GRI’s requirements in terms of quality and that could pass any of the two available tests (the materiality check or the content index check) must include accurate, reliable and comparable data, as well as detailed information on the policies and procedures a company follows in managing its own business and across its supply chain.
As any reporting process, this is also a recurring exercise. It is usually conducted annually, and it consists of:
- stakeholder engagement process (examples of stakeholders include: investors, employees, public authorities, non-governmental organizations, sub-contractors);
- an analysis of risks and opportunities;
- a materiality matrix (developed based on the inputs collected from stakeholders);
- agreement on the report content and material key performance indicators;
- content development;
- assurance (recommended);
- validation (as mentioned above, GRI offers two services: a materiality check and a content index check);
- report launch;
- comments from stakeholders; and
- preparation for the new reporting process.
In 2014, both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have adopted a directive (2014/95/EU) regarding the disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by large undertaking and groups. The Directive is set to enter into force in December 2016, the first mandatory non-financial reports being expected to be released in the second half of 2017.
According to the EU Directive, large companies (defined as those entities exceeding on their balance sheet dates the criterion of the average number of 500 employees during the financial year) “shall include in the management report a non-financial statement containing information to the extent necessary for an understanding of the company’s development, performance, position and impact of its activity, relating to, as a minimum, environmental, social and employees matters, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters, including:
a. a brief description of the undertaking’s business model;
b. a description of the policies pursued by the undertaking in relation to those matters, including due diligence processes implemented;
c. the outcome of those policies;
d. the principal risks related to those matters linked to the undertaking’s operations including, where relevant and proportionate, its business relationships, products or services which are likely to cause adverse impacts in those areas, and how the undertaking manages those risks;
e. non-financial key performance indicators relevant to the particular business.