Bill Baue, socialfunds.com
"Current forms of [measurement and] reporting can verge on the meaningless as they are both too simple and devoid of context."
Rob Gray and Markus Milne, 2004
Sept 19-20, 2013 in Burlington, VT
"If it is possible for a company to score favorably under a particular sustainability doctrine, and yet still be functioning in ways which, if universally applied, would put the sufficiency of vital capital resources and human well-being at risk, then the doctrine itself fails on its face and should be rightly rejected."
In a recent study, we compared one company’s greenhouse gas emissions over a 6-year period using conventional (absolute and relative) metrics on the one hand, and context-based metrics on the other. Amongst our findings was that conventional metrics very often send precisely the wrong signals when it comes to understanding the true sustainability performance of a company. Context-based metrics are much more reliable.
There is a growing consensus, we think, that the time for context-based sustainability in corporate sustainability management may have come. And none too soon, mind you. After all, the concept has been firmly ensconced in the Global Reporting Initiative’s guidelines for sustainability measurement and reporting for more than a decade now. What exactly is context-based sustainability, or CBS, though?
If you’re not using context-based metrics (CBMs) in your organization’s sustainability program, you’re not measuring sustainability performance, per se. Instead, you might be measuring eco-efficiency, citizenship, philanthropy or what have you, but not sustainability performance. In order to measure sustainability performance, impacts must be measured against norms, standards or thresholds that are context-based. Let us show you how!
Companies interested in experiencing the use of context-based metrics in their sustainability programs will be pleased to know that we (CSO) have decided to place certain of our metrics into the public domain. For starters, templates for our context-based carbon and solid waste metrics are now freely downloadable from this site.
We (CSO) are proud to have joined dozens of others as a signatory to an important public comment submitted to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in September 2012 as part of its G4 development process, in which GRI was urged in the strongest possible terms to improve its treatment of the Sustainability Context principle in the next version of its Guidelines (G4).
In April, 2011, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced its Report or Explain campaign, in which it called upon companies around the world to either report on their sustainability performance or explain why they don’t. We support that campaign, but would also like to see GRI fully enforce its own reporting guidelines or explain why it doesn’t. Of most importance is the ‘sustainability context’ requirement, which GRI clearly does not enforce.