Sustainability refers to the ability of humanity to coexist in a state of endurable equilibrium with its given environment. The issue of ethical practices and of a positive impact on society and the environment has emerged as soon as human civilisation has started to thrive at the cost of the ecological system. Fundamentally, the trouble arises when industrial, social, and political processes – aimed at unlimited means – result in the obtainment of greater wealth from a limited amount of natural resources.
Sustainability Reporting is a trend that has been gaining traction steadily over the past thirty years. Although it started as a beneficial expedient that companies resorted to in order to improve their communication with stakeholders and persuade potential investors, its importance has now grown exponentially. Today, it is seen as a proof of integrity, transparency, and accountability, as well as a way to demonstrate the commitment of a business to sustainable growth.
What are the main standards an initiatives that promote a positive ecological footprint and ensure the abstention from resource exploitation, waste intensity, and unscrupulous business conduct?
“Globalisation is a fact of life, but I believe we have underestimated its fragility.”1
Launched in 2000 by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Global Compact is an initiative aimed at businesses worldwide that promotes the adoption and implementation of sustainable practices. The framework is comprised of ten principles concerning areas such as human rights, labor, and the environment. The UN initiated this programme in the hope that it would “give a human face to the global market“2 , and today, it is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.
A critical facet of reporting practices is the measurement and disclosure of non-financial factors regarding environmental, social, and governance issues. An important aspect in the process of sustainability reporting is materiality assessment, a method used to identify those elements that have a de facto impact at different levels (e.g. ethics, values, climate action, data security, social inclusion, water management).
”The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) are the first and most widely adopted global standards for sustainability reporting.”3
Founded in 1997, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an Amsterdam-based international organization which develops guidelines for businesses, governments as well as non-governmental organisations, in view of the creation of sustainability reports. The aim is to help stakeholders throughout their progress towards sustainable development. Aside from a set of universal directives, the GRI standards are divided into three categories: economic, environmental and social standards. Once drawn up, they have been subsequently released from the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB).
“We have to choose between a global market driven by calculations of short-term profits and one which has a human face.”4
The most incisive roadmap designed to pave the way for a globally sustainable future is the Sustainable Development Goals initiative (SDG), a collection of seventeen goals launched in 2015 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The “Global Goals”, as they are also called, are a universal call to action towards the attainment of prosperity by 2030. This integrated approach is cross sectoral, recognising that “action in one area will affect outcomes in others“. Moreover, it aims at promoting environmental protection, attaining social equality, and ending poverty, hunger, and AIDS.
“The IRI Standards utilise the goals of Islamic social behaviour together with the five preservations to define and guide responsible activities and reporting transparency. “5
The Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI) is a reporting framework for Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility (CSR) that founded in 2015 by and for businesses. The independent not-for-profit organization is based on Islamic principles and values that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
“Definition and guidance are established through the fundamental values of Unity, Vicegerency, Social Justice and Responsibility, all of which contribute to the harmony and benevolence that encompasses Islam, both as a faith and a way of life. Each of these values carries a powerful meaning and message, directed not just to the whole Islamic world, but to all those that embrace true peace and prosperity throughout humanity.”6
Methods and initiatives for the assessment of economical, ecological, political, and cultural factors of cities and urban settlements.
“More than one-half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, but they are blamed for producing as much as 80% of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.”7
“The method is used for assessing sustainability and for managing projects for socially sustainable outcomes. It is intended to handle seemingly intractable problems. We live in a world with increasing pressures of global climate change, globalization, urbanization, and intensifying social change. In response, we need more sophisticated and subtle approaches for acting upon sustainability issues. It seems that the more complex the problem, the less that contemporary approaches are useful. ‘Sustainability’ is in danger of becoming an empty phrase. Circles of Sustainability provides a possible way out of these limitations.”8
“We are the global network of major cities and metropolitan areas. We serve as the hub and platform for metropolises to connect, share experiences, and mobilize on a wide range of local and global issues, in addition to being the focal point of worldwide experience and expertise on metropolitan governance.”9
“The UN Global Compact – Cities Programme is the urban arm of the UN Global Compact. Recognising the unique and complex challenges urban environments face, the Cities Programme works with the UN Global Compact’s network of city signatories to achieve fair, inclusive, sustainable and resilient cities and societies, through championing the 10 Principles and the UN Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. The Cities Programme provides diagnostic tools, resources, capacity building and project support to cities, to facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships which connect local and regional governments with the private sector, civil society and academic experts to support the local-level implementation of the SDGs. The Cities Programme is administered by an International Secretariat, which has been hosted by RMIT University since 2007.”10
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