GRI, SDGs, B Corp, ISO 14001...

Sustainability frameworks

…we can help you understand the alphabet soup

Yes, we know.

There are an awful lot of acronyms to negotiate when you start to look into sustainability management and reporting for your organisation. It can be difficult to know where to start and which framework is best fit for your purpose.

It may even bring on a bout of “sustainability reporting fatigue”. (Apparently that’s a thing.)

We’re here to help, and so are the frameworks.

There is a lot of them, but they share the same mission to support and encourage organisations to measure, manage and report their impacts on the environment, society and economic life.

Applying frameworks helps private, public and third sector organisations communicate effectively with their stakeholders and be transparent about the way they operate in the world. Increasingly, organisations are faced with legislative requirements to report in certain formats, respond to value chain requests to complete industry-specific questionnaires, or comply with requirements for designated certifications.  

At Grain we’re multilingual when it comes to sustainability frameworks. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the main ones.

The original sustainability disclosures, and still the most widely used, are the GRI Standards developed by the Global Reporting Initiative. This is a comprehensive framework with over 140 potential disclosures covering everything from emissions, to occupational health and safety, to tax, and everything in between.

Many subsequent frameworks have built upon or tailored GRI principles to meet specific ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting requirements. These include the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) which independently scores organisations on climate impacts, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), which tailors material topics and related metrics to specific industry requirements, and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) which aims to align and streamline the major reporting frameworks for greater transparency and comparability.

There is a general trend for voluntary actions to become mandatory, like the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a set of climate-related financial risk disclosures which is on track to becoming mandatory in the UK soon. The UK currently requires large companies to prepare and submit Streamline Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) annually. The EU also requires large companies to disclose ESG information annual under the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD).

You may, like us at Grain, want to join 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of turnover to environmental non-profits. Or you may aim to become a B Corp, as we have, demonstrating that your business balances purpose and profit, and considers workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment as equally important as financial performance. Or you may decide to control and continuously improve your environmental performance by implementing ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management Systems).

Some frameworks, like the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are more open-ended commitments to take action on a global scale. They can be used by any type of organisation, in any sector.

Others, like the Legal Sustainability Alliance or the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) are industry-specific. The textile industry works to numerous standards and frameworks including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the Higg Index, BCSI, and many more. Even golf has its own sustainability certification framework, GEO Certified, to help industry actors assess, manage and improve environmental, social and governance performance in the sport.

And there are more…

Fortunately, many of these frameworks may be used in conjunction, with one often supporting the other or aligning in ways that make them useful to your organisation.

To find out which sustainability frameworks are most suitable for your business, get in touch on +44 20 8187 7040, email, or book in a chat. 

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