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Press Room

News on GRI Sustainability Reporting, Verification & Assurance, CDP Reporting

18 May


Washington State Department of Ecology, a Nucleus for Sustainability Acceleration

May 18, 2016 | By |

Key Contributors: ISOS Group & Linda Glasier-Environmental Specialist at the Washington State Department of Ecology

May, 2016—The State of Washington has developed a worldwide reputation as a hub of innovation, technology, and forward-thinking industries. A key component of that forward-thinking for many Washington organizations is sustainability.

Not just environmental sustainability, but sustainability in the broader sense of understanding the impact an organization has, and preparing for the future.

One of the leaders of this movement has been the Washington Department of Ecology. That may seem ironic, both because government agencies are not traditionally viewed as innovators and a department charged with protecting the environment might not be expected to think about sustainability in that broader sense.

Washington State Department of Ecology, a Nucleus for Sustainability Acceleration

In 2012, however, Ecology became the first state agency in the country to issue a sustainability report meeting the international Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines – the same framework used by many major companies in Washington and elsewhere to validate their sustainability and corporate social responsibility reporting. Ecology has also worked with GRI and dozens of Washington businesses to incorporate this type of reporting into their strategic plans.

According to Linda Glasier, an environmental specialist who has led Ecology’s GRI reporting project, helping businesses, organizations and other local and state agencies adopt sustainability into their thinking helps connect the state.

“Ecology believes that having a common standard for tracking, demonstrating and communicating sustainability performance makes sense for our agency,” she said. “And establishing a common framework with other groups in our state can push us to communicate better and work toward common goals.”

The first state agency in the country to issue a GRI sustainability report

The GRI Guidelines are the world’s most-widely used reporting standard for non-financial measures. There are standardized questions, metrics and an underlying quality analysis and quality check process to spur robust reporting efforts for organizations of all types.

Sustainability reporting has been adopted by academic institutions, small mom and pop businesses, and corporate titans such as Boeing, Microsoft, Nintendo, Amazon Expedia, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks and Costco.

“When companies really commit to sustainability planning and reporting as part of their strategic efforts,” Glasier said, “they go far beyond feel-good projects or altruism. They find opportunities to make their businesses more resilient, more efficient, and more profitable in a changing marketplace.”

For the Department of Ecology, measuring its own impacts on the environment and in the communities it serves obviously serves to ensure the agency walks its talk. But, with more than a thousand employees and offices across Washington, the Department faces many of the same challenges any business does, from commuting to succession planning to paying the water bill.

Washington is home to world-class organizations that are in the perfect position to be ambassadors of change. However, no one organization can go at it alone. Sustainability is a team sport, Glasier says, and we’re all on the same team.

Get a first hand look at the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

We invite all Washington-based organizations interested in improving their bottom line to attend the upcoming ISOS Group-led GRI-G4 Certified Training in Tukwila, Wash., scheduled for June 8-9, 2016. The Washington Department of Ecology is hosting the training, with assistance from presenters from Alaska Airlines and Holland America.

Participants will hear first-hand how Ecology and other organizations have gone about aligning metrics to diverse stakeholder interests. Upon course completion, participants will receive globally recognized certificates from GRI.


07 Mar


CSR reporting still relevant in 2016

March 7, 2016 | By |

The old reasons for CSR Reporting are still relevant.

All the great work that organizations are doing to up their game as it relates to sustainability and corporate social responsibility are increasingly communicated using CSR or Sustainability reporting. These reports come in many flavors and each addresses different needs, different stakeholder groups and different levels of engagement.

For a comprehensive look at sustainability activities many organizations globally are turning to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as a comprehensive framework for communicating triple bottom line activities. For foundational guidance, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) providing a set of 10 driving principles toward a more sustainable future, AccountAbility’s array of manuals, and Integrated Reporting provide other complimentary examples of comprehensive non-financial reporting platforms.

For targeted reporting on specific issues or issue categories there are many frameworks and standards to chose from. One example is CDP, which provides a framework for Climate Change, Water, Supply Chain and Forestry reporting through their programs that target each of these issues. Others include the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and its Code of Conduct, along with the Sustainable Apparel coalition, to name a few, provide industry-specific standards. While, finally, SASB is an example of a reporting framework targeted to a specific stakeholder audience, that is also regional- it targets US companies and SEC filings to promote non-financial reporting.

Though the list has been getting longer, the need to communicate to the increasing variety of stakeholders remains relevant. Investors present one of the most prominent stakeholder groups requesting access to organizational performance on sustainability issues. This is prompted in part by the evidence that organizations that focus on these issues perform better in the marketplace. There are other stakeholders as well including customers and potential customers, suppliers, employees and potential employees. Sustainability engagement can be positive to brand image and reporting is a way to communicate that.


Increasingly organizations are engaging in reporting not as a means for communicating to their stakeholders, but as a way to deepen their engagement with the topics that this reporting represents. Reporting serves to focus attention on certain aspects of the business by providing a framework for establishing targets and goals and the metrics that measure performance against them.

The Responsible Business Summit in preparation for their New York meetings recently highlighted several priorities for top responsible businesses. We have found these same things to be important for organizations and adapt them here to discuss the relevance of sustainability reporting in our current workplace.

1. Strategic Integration – Reporting on triple bottom line activities adds visibility across the organization to the potential that sustainability offers including financial success, brand, and an engaged workforce. This visibility provides opportunities to integrate these activities with the strategic direction of the organization in order to meet organizational goals.

2. Collaboration – Reporting requires frequent collaboration between silos within the organization and with stakeholders outside the organization. In fact, the process of preparing a report brings groups and individuals together that would not often have a cause to work closely. This stimulates innovation and productivity.

3. Prioritization – Reporting helps to prioritize what is most important in the organization based on strategic objectives but also based on key impacts. This helps to keep a fresh eye on both potential risks and emerging opportunities and avoids an isolationist mentality.

4. Purposeful Work – Studies show that work with a purpose provides numerous positive results for organizations including increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, individual performance and decrease in absenteeism and stress. Sustainability reporting engages employees by enabling them to apply their skills towards something meaningful not only for the financial success of the organization, but for something much larger and more long standing. Engaging in sustainability reporting serves to highlight this higher purpose and connects the organization to it as well. This is particularly important to millennials.

So, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, YES- CSR reporting is still relevant but the reasons for its relevance are expanding. It continues to be an important signaling and communication mechanism for stakeholders but it also serves a more institutional purpose as well. Organizations are telling us that these institutional issues are taking precedent over the communication as the dominant reason for reporting. What does this mean? Perhaps less glossy marketing pieces and more living and changing working documentation of activities with simple targeted communication pieces are in our future.

25 Feb


Online CDP Reporting Training Series

February 25, 2016 | By |

Cadmus, ISOS Launch Online CDP Reporting Training Series

February 25, 2016—The Cadmus Group, Inc. (Cadmus) announced today that it has partnered with ISOS Group (ISOS) to lead a series of online CDP reporting training sessions. The series, led by experts from both CDP-partner firms, will help parties with all levels of CDP reporting experience develop more efficient and thorough responses.

The eight-hour training series appeals to a broad audience, from beginners to organizations that currently report to CDP. Training sessions will cover foundations of CDP reporting, CDP tools, best-practice examples, and additional resources for a deeper understanding of how to manage and disclose climate change impacts.

Three cohorts will be made available for training, each lasting a span of three weekly sessions. Trainings will begin March 14, April 4, and May 9, with the third set of dates incorporating a supply chain focus. Registration information and more details can be found at

CDP is a globally recognized, independent, nonprofit climate reporting organization.

“CDP has created a lot of traction over the years, yet more is needed,” said ISOS co-founder Nancy Mancilla. “Collaboration is key to seeing real change. In that spirit, we are joining forces with Cadmus to deliver the CDP online trainings to provide a full spectrum of our collective expertise to training participants.”

“Measuring and reporting emissions is a powerful tool for organizations to gain meaningful insights into reducing their impact on climate,” said Kate Swayne Wilson, director of Cadmus’ greenhouse gas (GHG) and sustainability reporting practice. “Whether you’re a seasoned CDP reporter or haven’t a clue where to start, we and our skilled partners at ISOS will help you and your organization take a leading role in reducing emissions and climate reporting.”


To find out more about registration please CLICK HERE.

About ISOS Group

ISOS is a collaborative sustainability enterprise that helps drive value creation for the world’s most innovative brands. We evaluate where our clients are and plot a course for where they want to be, through responsible business practices that make a lasting contribution to the well-being of their stakeholders and the planet at large. ISOS specializes in Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), GRESB and CDP disclosures, external assurance of CSR reports, and verification of GHG emissions and climate change data. ISOS Group’s long time status as GRI Certified Training Partners and CDP Silver Consultancy and Education Partners in the U.S. positions the group as practice experts—shaping credible reporting efforts in line with the world’s leading sustainability standards.

About The Cadmus Group, Inc.

Cadmus is an employee-owned consultancy committed to helping our clients address complex challenges by applying diverse skills and experiences in a highly collaborative environment. By assisting our clients in achieving their goals, we create social and economic value today and for future generations. Founded in 1983, we leverage our staff’s exceptional expertise in the physical and life sciences, engineering and built environment, social sciences, security, strategic communication, law, and policy to provide an array of research, analytical, and operational services in the United States and abroad.

16 Feb


Embedding sustainability into your brand’s DNA

February 16, 2016 | By |


Though many organizations claim sustainability to be deeply rooted in organizational DNA, it has primarily been managed in a silo, which can make building internal buy-in for sustainability more challenging. Sustainability professionals are all too familiar with this daily battle and are increasingly seeking solutions to effectively institutionalize sustainability and to benefit from action on triple bottom line commitments. What is needed is project management, but project management with an eye to the advantages that sustainability brings.


Sustainability-focused project management can be viewed from two perspectives. First, all projects that organizations take on – be it a tangible product or a service, a new IT system or a feasibility study – need to find systematic ways to integrate sustainability. Most project management frameworks address the need to systematically facilitate successful projects, but fail to recognize the impacts that the project may have on social, environmental and economic systems within the organization and beyond.

The second perspective relates to the need for sustainability professionals to use solid project management tools to gain the greatest advantage that sustainability can bring for the organization. By utilizing project management when implementing and maintaining sustainability initiatives, the sustainability professional and the organization as a whole, can see the synergies of sustainability activities with the strategic direction of the organization. Management frameworks, drawing on sustainability principles have been flexible enough for customization to specific needs. However, in our work, we’ve found that GPM’s PRiSM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods) really encompasses the techniques and tools needed for deeper integration. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of the PRiSM methodology is its flexibility to work within any formal project management framework.


PRiSM Practitioner, rooted in the IPMA (International Project Management Association) standard, is regularly demonstrated by sustainability practitioners globally. Those in the United States are likely to be more familiar with the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate. Although there are differences in terminology and processes between the two approaches, both are equally relevant to the application of PRiSM.

Sustainability professionals with a strong project management background will find that the PRiSM methodology developed by GPM is designed to inform planning, project execution and the determination of success needed to achieve intended outcomes.

Similarly, PRiSM provides those on the sustainability side with a more structured approach for infusing sustainability along a management spectrum understood throughout the organization. Moreover, systematic processes can be woven throughout all stages of a project – contributing to a reduction in project risks and negative impacts and increasing positive impacts and benefits.

PRiSM benefits can be added to any aspect of a project, but the dialogue that working with PRiSM initiates in the planning process is valuable in itself. From there, guidance on how to deploy resources toward managing all aspects across relevant functions can be evaluated.

In project management, focus is primarily on the project, but PRiSM stimulates a comprehensive systems thinking approach to management. By drawing on ISO standards (9001, 14001, 50001) and guidance (26000, 21500, 55000), PRiSM helps organizations see how projects are connected to other systems. Engaging others internally facilitates dialogue that not only communicates the value of sustainability upward to senior managers, but also to peers, so that they too better understand their roles and how they impact greater sustainability.


As a long-time project management and sustainability reporting professional, Jennifer Frank Pontzer, PMP, points out:

Integrating sustainability into an organization’s strategy and operations requires more than stand-alone initiatives: By focusing on projects, PRiSM brings sustainability deeper into an organization.

Frank Scarpaci, the VIANOVA, Inc. founder, further attests,:

For sustainability professionals, PRiSM provides an enhanced set of tools and a progressive methodology that will lead to greater overall project performance and outcomes.

Learning GPM’s PRiSM methodology from these two experts (and then getting the GPM-b certification) adds value both to those without formal PM training and to those with PM certifications. For PMPs, it broadens their skill set and prepares them to increase the benefits their projects deliver.


ISOS now offers the opportunity to add this powerful methodology to your repertoire. Please check upcoming dates for the next course led by ISOS Group’s Center for Social Responsibility at:

Sustainability-focused certified Project Management training:

Attendance is limited. Please sign up now for one of our next cohorts!

10 Feb


National Geographic Society and World Bank sustainability efforts

February 10, 2016 | By |

Given the significant uptake in corporate non-financial disclosure over the last 10 years or so, some would question the dynamics of sustainability in our nation’s capital. As the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) is the “home away from home” for various national state representatives, intergovernmental agencies and policymakers, local dialogue over how to reach global objectives is influential.

However, the city’s recent recognition for its efforts has really been years in the making. As early adopters, sustainability pioneers like the National Geographic Society and the World Bank have led the way for others eager to design and implement strategic sustainability practices.


The National Geographic Society’s sustainability efforts were shaped by its mission to inspire people to care about the planet. Its pledge has translated into a concerted effort to reduce negative environmental impacts. Like all organizations, there came a point in time where its employees questioned what they were doing to live out the Society’s mission through their daily operating activities.

In 2003, the National Geographic Society’s CEO formalized sustainability as an organizational priority, paving the way for the Society’s leadership and innovation. The Society’s headquarters became the world’s first existing building to receive LEED certification, the organization began composting and it also initiated a comprehensive life-cycle assessment of the National Geographic magazine. A quick Google search provides further detail on the Society’s sustainability commitment from food sourcing efforts to the voluntary employee Green Team that develops innovative solutions. According to the National Geographic Society’s Senior Manager of Sustainability, Susan Kolodziejczyk, there is a natural next step.

“Ideally, transferring performance to a wider reporting strategy will promote continuous improvement.”


The World Bank’s sustainability reporting efforts were first used to improve transparency on the application of environmental, social and governance criteria in its corporate and client projects. Recent reports have discussed the Bank’s progress toward meeting GHG reduction targets, its success in improving waste diversion from cafeterias and numerous LEED-certified buildings in Washington, D.C., and developing countries like South Sudan, Kenya and the Philippines. However, the report coordinators have struggled to find the right formula for effectively bridging financial and non-financial disclosure efforts as a model for greater transparency. In a one-on-one conversation, the World Bank Sustainability Coordinator Monika Kumar explained the Bank’s next move.

“We are shifting the way we produce our sustainability report to a biennial publication complemented by a full-page spread about sustainability in the Annual Report. This better reflects the Bank’s mission and presence.”

Knowledge built over the years can now be shared with its public sector clients — stimulating a ripple effect toward strengthened governance and transparency globally. This move demonstrates the Bank’s efforts to translate its own experience to its constituents. To drive discourse, the World Bank has established a “community of practice” to serve as a forum for peer-to-peer and expert knowledge exchange on the role of non-financial reporting in the public sector. The aim is to strengthen governance systems while shaping a more sustainable future.


To hear how these organizations are pursuing sustainability reporting firsthand, join us in Washington, D.C., March 16-18, 2016, when the National Geographic Society will play host to sustainability practitioners completing the GRI and CDP Certified Trainings delivered by ISOS Group’s Center for Social Responsibility.


GRI and CDP Certified Training

04 Feb


Kick-off this sustainability reporting season with GRI and CDP

February 4, 2016 | By |

The rise of social media and digital technologies, combined with trends such as increasing awareness of climate change impacts, resources stress, and other cultural changes, has made individuals more aware of how organizations behave and how they contribute to society.

Sustainability reporting: For organizations, the costs associated with reporting sustainability activities in terms of time and dollars can be daunting. This is particularly true when stakeholders are increasingly requesting reporting utilizing multiple frameworks. These needs are understandable given that some stakeholders are looking for detailed and comprehensive information on specific issues, e.g. GHG emissions, water, health and safety, human rights, equal employment opportunity, poverty impacts, while others are looking for a way to evaluate the overall sustainability performance. More and more organizations are recently finding the value of utilizing multiple reporting frameworks together. This creates a more strategic and efficient approach to sustainability internally, and a cohesive message externally.

Simplifying via alignment: One very common pairing of reporting requirements involves CDP and GRI reporting in collaboration. The synergies between the two are deep and efforts put into reporting the details of carbon issues in the CDP, roll into the Environmental Indicators of the GRI easily. In fact, GRI provides a roadmap for those indicators that can be addressed simply by referring to the CDP disclosure.

For example, The Clorox Company, a San Francisco Bay area-based company in their 2015 Integrated Annual Report links to their CDP disclosure directly in their GRI index. Issues related to energy conservation and efficiency, energy-efficient products and initiatives to reduce indirect energy consumption are addressed in a general sense related to the overall approach to energy in the Integrated Annual Report using the GRI Guidelines. But they also include a link to the CDP, which supports the need for details regarding these issues and more.
Companies like Clorox are seeking ways to engage more deeply in their sustainability activities while conserving on efforts to communicate this engagement with interested stakeholders.

ISOS Group recognizes this need. As a licensed training partner of both GRI and CDP we seek to provide solutions to the challenges presented by sustainability and corporate social responsibility reporting.

Kick-off this sustainability reporting season with GRI and CDP:

We start 2016 in San Francisco at KETCHUM’s offices, with a three –day session on GRI and CDP training, scheduled for February 25-27, 2016. Participants can choose to participate in just the GRI training (2 days) or CDP training (1 day) or combine them to capitalize on the synergies.




GRI and CDP Certified Training:

06 Jan


GRI and CDP Certified Training in Washington, DC hosted by National Geographic

January 6, 2016 | By |

ISOS Group is excited to announce  an upcoming GRI and CDP Certified Training in Washington, DC hosted by National Geographic on March 16-18, 2016.


Sustainability at National Geographic /  National Geographic
Corporate Responsibility World Bank / World Bank

Content: Participants will learn how to use GRI G4, the latest version of the GRI guidelines—to manage the reporting process, assess an organization’s significant impacts, select report topics and performance measures, and follow best practices for developing top-quality sustainability reports. Following the CDP Training, participants will walk away with a better understanding of how CDP relates to their specific organization, how it applies to daily business scenarios and how it can help with strategic planning.

Trainers: The 3-day training is taught by working sustainability reporting professionals with in-depth knowledge of the GRI and CDP Reporting Frameworks and decades of experience managing enterprise-level reporting projects across a variety of sectors. A blend of instruction, individual and group exercises, guest speakers and real-world examples keeps the course engaging and lively.

Upon training completion, participants receive their globally recognized GRI G4 Certificate of completion directly from the Global Reporting Initiative, respectively the CDP Certificate of completion from CDP. 

  • Learn best practices around reporting of various sustainability metrics, assessing materiality and managing environmental, social and governance risks
  • Gain knowledge of the alignment of metrics to other reporting mechanisms, such as the CDP and DJSI in order to minimize survey fatigue
  • Learn first hand how GRI’s Framework can be used to create a management tool to further integrate sustainability throughout an organization
  • Achieve global recognition as a GRI G4 sustainability reporting professional. Receive certificate directly from the Global Reporting Initiative
  • Join the ISOS CSR exclusive community of sustainability professionals, where members connect and collaborate on on-going projects.
  • Learn about the different CDP questionnaires, the disclosure process, overall technical requirements, and scoring methodology
  • Understand how to improve CDP ratings by implementing best practices and techniques for crafting solid disclosures
  • Facilitate investors’ access to more meaningful, action-oriented information that supports long-term objective analysis.

Course fees vary by organization and number of registrants; corporate teams, governmental organizations and academics are elligible for speical discounts.



GRI and CDP Certified Training

23 Sep



September 23, 2015 | By |


ISOS Group has worked with Measurabl to create their GRI G4 reporting solution. After months of painstaking work deconstructing G4 and re-building it from the ground up, we uncovered some insights one can only find by getting buried in the content. Here’s what we learned after we came up from air.


Let’s face it – we’re human and sometimes we struggle with seeing all sides of an issue. Leaning on the thoughts and concerns of others using GRI’s stakeholder engagement process will shed light on a situation, fine tune an approach and even spur innovation. Who doesn’t want that?

Though best practice is often assumed to be a matter of applying GRI’s reporting principles defining report content, we’ve found most organizations are actually scared of opening their doors to input from others, particularly those outside the organization. Because of this, many have failed to leverage the power of stakeholder engagement, which is truly the best approach for defining your report content. To break down this barrier, we worked with Measurabl’s developers team to develop a stakeholder module that would:

  • Help prioritize stakeholder groups;
  • Collect stakeholder views on issues they feel are most relevant (a.k.a. “material”) for the organization to report.

By reducing the burden of the engagement process and jumping straight to addressing those most material issues, you’re putting yourself in a position to compile and analyze real, meaningful results. From there, you can generate your GRI Materiality matrix and map out areas of your organization’s control.



If you’re like most organizations we work with you’ll have even less data than you think! That’s because unlike other non-financial disclosures, GRI-based reporting wasn’t developed to be a survey, but rather a process for determining what matters to your organization with the goal of driving change throughout the organization and beyond. That means a lot of fresh data requirements are uncovered in the reporting process. Addressing “General Standard Disclosures” about the organization’s profile, reporting practices and even governance structures may seem relatively easy. But when advancing to “Specific Standard Disclosures” or key performance indicators, data becomes more scarce. Being able to furnish it all means your organization will have to:

  • Develop policies with procedural guidelines for implementing mitigation strategies;
  • Employ data tracking mechanisms, in particular building utility data, travel data and other sources of carbon emissions and water usage;
  • Enforce quality controls to ensure data accuracy

Due to the complexity of today’s organizations, data collection and calculations all but require software. This is particularly true when attempting to produce GRI-compliant Economic, Environmental, and Social key performance indicators. One good approach is to compiling data from other pre-existing sustainability questionnaires such as CDP or GRESB to create a “single source of truth” about your organization’s data that can then be used to power all your reporting. This will lead to more consistency and by far less effort.


For those who have taken the time to glance over the plethora of sustainability reports issued annually, statements like, “Sustainability is in our DNA,” are all too common. After all, it’s really only the last ten years or so that sustainability has entered our lexicon, or been tied to corporate directives. The Disclosure on Management Approach (DMA) truly helps reporting organizations move beyond commitment to actions. The three main features of a DMA are:

  • Why a reported issue is relevant;
  • What its impacts are and how they’re being mitigated;
  • How progress is evaluated;

By addressing each of these items, disclosure becomes more than just a few performance measures. Instead, it becomes a demonstrable strategic approach taken to identify issues and manage them. Our experience with GRI informs our understanding of how extremely complex DMAs can become, and our approach to determining materiality was specifically engineered to function as a pre-screener of information, focusing on the key performance indicators that are material to each specific GRI report. Working with Measurabl to transform the GRI G4 Guidelines into a survey approach was an incredible task. But we’ve always been firm believers of moving through each disclosure item one-by-one and that dissecting each GRI disclosure requirement into its quantitative and qualitative components would yield the best result for the reporter and, ultimately, its stakeholders.


Measurabl is online software that lets you quickly file sustainability reports such as GRESB, CDP and GRI. Whether you’re a sustainability professional or you’re reporting for the first time, you’ll file the most accurate report with the least amount of hassle. Learn more, or get started with a free trial.


ISOS is a pioneering corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability firm that helps drive value creation for the world’s most innovative brands. We guide clients in enhancing their competitive leadership through business practices that make a lasting contribution to the well-being of all their stakeholders and the planet at large.

16 Apr


2015 Sustainability Managers Market Survey

April 16, 2015 | By |

San Diego, CA  | April, 2015



The objective of this engagement was to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by, and future needs of the corporate sustainability management community in the United States. We succeeded in obtaining input from just over 100 sustainability managers at corporations across the country in January 2015.

The following identifies five (5) key revelations that surfaced in reviewing responses from sustainability managers within our combined networks of ISOS Group, ISOS Center for Social Responsibility, and Governance & Accountability Institute (G&A). Though some of our findings may not be a surprise, they serve to confirm the current challenges faced by sustainability managers.

More information about this survey’s collection, analysis, and results may be obtained by contacting ISOS / G&A.

REVELATION #1: You are not alone

Time and time again, we hear, “but our team only consists of a brave 1 or 2,” from multinationals with annual revenues equal to some nations.
This sentiment was proven by our survey results to be more common than not. In general, we found that the majority of those sustainability managers who responded, were organized into small teams of less than 5 people – often juggling multiple responsibilities and led by a passionate, fearless leader reporting directly to an executive committee.

REVELATION #2: Sustainability professionals are magic makers! 

There’s a popular saying — “You’re not a true sustainability professional unless you know how to pull a rabbit from a hat.”

Challenges expressed by respondents included difficulty with employee engagement, lack of internal communication, resource availability, and the strain of conflicting interests present moderate challenges to the sustainability managers who responded to our survey. Respondents also feel that one of the most important challenges in tackling these tasks are what they perceive to be a lack of internal support from the C-Suite and Board level decision-makers.

Each year, sustainability managers describe an uphill battle to prove the business case, raise the bar and educate management and peers along the way. These challenges are punctuated by a lack of resources, the inability to properly measure return on sustainability investments (ROI), and limited internal buy-in.

The situation may be turning in the favor of sustainability managers in the months ahead as more supply chain pressure results from questions (and demands) raised by major customers captures the attention of senior managers. Also, a rising number of asset owners and their managers are adopting sustainable investing approaches with emphasis on analysis of ESG performance indicators, which will result in CEOs, CFOs, investor relations officers and others making serious attempts to meet investor expectations.

REVELATION #3: Money does make the world go around.

Sad, but true – sustainability managers may see hesitancy to change unless the bottom line is involved.
While most respondents expressed a lack of internal buy-in in the previous question, interest in sustainability from Investor Relations (IR) departments seems to have increased over the over the last 5 years. Paradoxically, the limited number of questions received from investors about corporate sustainability remains a challenge in making the internal investor relations case.

Why Investor Relations specifically? These departments, too, are very often resource-constrained, with a very small number of professionals. The general comment by IR officers is that until now, very few investor contacts asked “sustainability questions.” Companies are disclosing important metrics and narrative on reduced costs, increased efficiency, product / service innovation, competitive advantages, more engaged employees, new opportunities, lower risk, and lower environmental and social impacts — all key ESG performance indicators, but not necessarily labeled so.

Bloomberg terminals (300,000 in use worldwide) carry extensive data sets about corporate ESG performance on 4,000+ companies, and this is the fastest-growing feature of the Professional Investment Service (“the Bloomberg”). This is an important factor in providing ESG information to analysts and asset managers — which is having an increasing impact on corporate ESG disclosure.
A rising demand for information for ESG disclosures from investors are considered to be the fuel needed to elevate sustainability in the corporation, and mobilize IR teams and the senior managements they report to (such as CFOs and CEOs). This trend is beginning to accelerate. The US Social Investment Forum’s (SIF) latest survey of the US capital markets found that 1 out of every 6 dollars is now incorporating ESG into their decision making processes. This is up from 1 out of 11 in their previous survey 2 years ago.

IN our conversations we see the IR departments increasingly focusing on sustainability in the years to come and will watch this trend closely.

REVELATION #4: Reporting is not passé.

Corporate Sustainability Reporting is not likely to lose traction any time soon. In fact, approximately 72% of the S&P 500 report on ESG topics and issues as of the beginning of 2014– the “non-financials” — and that is a steep increase from previous years (20% in 2011; 53% in 2012).
Due to increased attention on the critical issue of “materiality” in disclosure and reporting, organizations are expanding the breadth of content (narrative and data sets) to focus more on “what matters” most within their industry. Frameworks such as CDP, GRI, SASB and others are increasingly producing sector specific guidance in response.

The top sustainability activities among organizations polled for the next financial year are publishing a sustainability report, applying the GRI framework, engaging with stakeholders, completing a materiality assessment and integrating more sustainability info into the annual financial report. In addition, the largest changes in planning from the previous year to the next year are companies beginning to consider applying SASB metrics, exploring integrated reporting through the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) framework, and beginning to assure the data in their reports by third party assurance providers.

REVELATION #5: Some Stakeholders Matter More Than Others…

As sustainability managers, a key question to ask is which stakeholder groups do we get the most value from engaging with? Though we regularly advise organizations to engage with as broad a universe as possible, the simple truth is that certain stakeholder groups have more impact on the bottom line.

Customers and employees ranked at the top of the list as many would expect, as without these two important stakeholders the business would cease to exist. When customers are happy they purchase more, and they tell their peers about their great experiences. Employees that are treated well and feel valued are more likely to work harder, stick around and treat customers better.
Surprisingly regulators, NGOs and the media weren’t considered the most important stakeholder to any of CSR managers that we surveyed. Although they are not ranked as the most valuable to engage with, positive public perception in the media and productive relationships with the regulator and the NGO community can generate real returns when done effectively.

In considering the responses to our other survey questions, internal communications and engagement would be strengthened if each functional unit better understood the value of sustainability.
How would the Board of Directors, supply chain partners, communities or government entities benefit from better communications channels with the sustainability team? These are important considerations for the future.

Effective corporate sustainability is a collaborative effort and all functions, business units and stakeholders need to play a role. Integration doesn’t only occur through reporting mechanisms, but through relationships.


We were not surprised with some of the responses, but we could say that we were disappointed at the apparent lack of progress that some respondents expressed. It is clear that many US corporations are limiting the resources made available to the sustainability team, even as the importance of sustainability increases. Across the enterprise managers are feeling the pressure of cost-cutting, reduced resources (such as through budget- and cost-cutting) and lack of internal attention paid to sustainability efforts.

There are forces at work that could change these conditions in the months ahead; our next survey may demonstrate the changes taking place. From top down (suppliers, employees, major customers, service providers, investors, media and regulators) there is increased attention paid to ESG performance.

Traditional investors (asset owners, such as pension funds and the managers they hire) are applying ESG approaches in the decisions they make. Governments in various countries are mandating sustainability or CSR reporting. Within industries and sectors, peers are reporting and the lack of adequate effort and accompanying reporting is creating gaps — identifying “leaders and laggards” among industry and investing peers.
But — as the survey respondents indicated — making the business and investing case internally, to generate necessary resources and to ignite employee interest, is a continuing challenge at many US-based companies.

As part of the mission of G&A Institute and ISOS Group we will continue to raise the level of awareness of sustainability through our research, writing, speaking engagements, training and services. We can help you to provide the “ammunition” needed internally to make the business case, and to accelerate the benefits that being a leader in sustainability can bring you, your company, and your stakeholders.
Thanks for being a part of our network, and please stay in touch let us know how we can help!


ISOS Group Governance & Accountability Institute
Copyright © 2014 ISOS/G&A 2015 Sustainability Managers Market Survey

31 Jan


CSR In Focus, Annual Sustainability Reports analysis

January 31, 2015 | By |


San Diego, CA | January 31, 2015:

In an age of continuous improvement, performance evaluations and endless surveys, we may ask, “How many more sustainability reports do we actually need?” But when it comes to sustainability reporting and the critical need for transparency in this arena, perhaps the answer should be, “Yes, please.” In early 2010, ISOS Group launched CSR in Focus, which summarizes the sustainability performance of a selection of leading brands, as disclosed in their annual sustainability or corporate social responsibility reports. But tell you what: these reports are in high demand …here’s why!

CSR in Focus reinforces the competencies of our recently trained professionals in Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – based sustainability reporting, while generating functional assessments of published reports. With potential evaluators lined up, our challenge was developing a scoring rubric for participants that accounts for the critical components of GRI and sustainability philosophy. The solution arrived as a simple, yet information-rich matrix providing logical and comparable metrics, with greater values indicative of better performance:

• Content and Quality, based directly upon the GRI Framework’s Reporting Principles, participants scored reports on the aptitude with which the framework was applied to the report

• Commitment to Sustainability, linking organizational impacts to the triple bottom line, this factor serves to show where (and how) the “rubber meets the road”– ensuring policies, procedures and practices in place support sustainability commitments

Each metric was then broken down in a way that could be easily understood and numerically assessed, resulting in 14 individually evaluated principles:

• Report Content: Materiality (External); Materiality (Internal); Stakeholder Engagement; Sustainability Context; Completeness; Reliability.

• Report Quality: Clarity; Balance; Comparability; Accuracy; Timeliness.

• Commitment to Sustainability: Economic Integrity; Commitment to Society and Protection of Human Rights; Demonstrated implementation of Environmental Protection Policies.

The resulting quadrants of the matrix allow us to categorize performance within the upper and lower 50th percentiles, putting a name to the type of reporting we were witnessing: Reports evaluated by participants are selected for recent publication, innovative reporting practices, and adherence to the GRI Framework – and our sample represents everyone from the world’s largest multinationals, to the World Bank, San Diego International Airport, SME’s like Hunter Industries and even academic institutions such as Ball State University. With dozens of individual assessments per selected report, ISOS then crafts customized scorecards for the participating organizations. The aggregate provides a unique overview of how trained readers perceive adherence to the reporting framework and demonstrated organizational commitment to sustainability.

Over our program iterations from 2010-2014, 817 GRI trained sustainability professionals contributed to this analysis of 125 unique reports from over 96 different organizations. For 15 of the organizations, ISOS compared at least two reports year-over-year to determine if lessons learned from previous reporting cycles were incorporated into future issuances. The outcome showed that about 50% improved performance in at least one of the two matrix metrics, while 27% managed to perform better in both.

Through the lens of CSR in Focus, we have generated a new perspective on the “state of reporting,” showing us the average annual performance of each group of evaluated reports. Those figures, when plotted on our matrix, reveal impressive overall levels of performance. However, poor performance in properly applying the concepts of sustainability context, materiality (external factors), balance, and completeness demonstrates the need for further improvement.

That is where CSR in Focus fits in. Interested in having your latest sustainability report considered in our selection process for future CSR in Focus evaluation?

Please contact us today!


Reports assessed in 2014:

Ball State University:

Microsoft 2013 Citizenship Report:

Inter-American Development Bank 2013 Sustainability Report:

International Paper:

WESST: World Bank:



Simple Green:

Caesars Entertainment:


City Hall of Bloomington:

Northrop Grumman (download the full report):

World Bank:


Johnson & Johnson:


HCP, Inc. :

Bank of America 2012 CSR Report (G3.1 B+, Ext. Assured):

Estee Lauder:

Alaska Airlines 2013 Sustainability Report:

UC Berkeley 2013 Campus Sustainability Report(G4):

07 Jul


ISOS releases new GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and LEED v4 Linkage document

July 7, 2014 | By |

San Diego, CA- July 7, 2014

Download Free Publication and Linkage Table

ISOS Group, in collaboration with Susty Pacific LLC, Brightworks, and other LEED and GRI experts— is pleased to announce the release of a new resource document that links the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification Program with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Reporting Guidelines.

The document titled, “Linking up LEED with GRI: How Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 certification program aligns with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines” provides a resource for LEED and GRI practitioners to identify the connections between the two frameworks and integrate the key components of LEED and GRI projects.
GRI is a network-based international nonprofit organization that produces the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework. The GRI Guidelines are used by corporate businesses, public agencies, non-governmental organizations, industry groups, small enterprises, municipal governments and other entities as a basis for providing transparency reporting in the areas of economic, environmental, social and governance performance.

GRI launched its G4 guidelines May of 2013 to address sustainability data requirements in a more straightforward and user-friendly manner. The G4 provides a detailed framework for reporters to convey business goals, risks and impacts to their stakeholders. In addition, the G4 broadens the company’s impact in the supply chain by addressing economic, environmental and social performance. The GRI Disclosures for the environment support the LEED Credits for Sustainable Sites, Water, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

LEED is a leading international green building rating and certification system developed and managed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED certification is administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which provides third-party verification of green buildings. It has over 13,000 membership organizations, 77 local chapters, and over 188,000 LEED professionals. There are ten LEED rating systems that were developed to meet the needs of various sectors, building types, and developments.

The “Linking up LEED with GRI” document includes descriptions of GRI and LEED. It provides narrative summaries that compare GRI sustainability reporting and LEED certification, describes synergies, and includes areas where the two frameworks overlap. In addition, users can download an extensive, comprehensive GRI-LEED linkage table that shows the direct overlap and relationships between GRI indicators and LEED credits.
The connections identified in the document provide a reference for GRI sustainability reporters (and reporting organizations) to track and disclose performance related to LEED more efficiently. It can also serve as an aid for LEED planning to align with organizational reporting, disclosure priorities, and selected performance indicators.

Susty Pacific will be presenting the document at the 2014 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans in October 22-24. They also plan to present this document in Honolulu this fall and begin offering training on corporate and organizational sustainability in 2015.

A summary of “Linking Up LEED with GRI” can be downloaded free of charge. More detailed tables and additional tools that reference the GRI G3.1, G4, and other LEED checklists can be downloaded for a fee at http:

About ISOS Group:

ISOS Group is a leading sustainability services agency. They work with organizations of all sizes and business sectors across the globe to provide tools and guidance in integrated sustainability reporting. Their expertise includes training and certification, consultancy to guide organizations throughout the reporting cycle, stakeholder engagement and materiality, content development, branding and design, third party assurance and external recognition. ISOS Group is a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Certified Training Partner and a CDP Silver Education and Training Partner in the U.S.

About Susty Pacific:

Susty Pacific LLC is a Hawaii-based firm specializing in responsible business and sustainability consulting. Their expertise and knowledge combine business competency with sustainability to develop tangible solutions that address the reality of business needs while positively impacting the local culture, community, and natural ecosystem—what they refer to as the Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL). To learn more about Susty Pacific, visit

About Brightworks:

Brightworks helps organizations of all types capture and create lasting value by aligning their efforts with basic principles of ecological, social, and economic sustainability. To learn more about Brightworks, visit

06 Jun


ISOS releases new GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and EICC Code of Conduct 4.0 Linkage document

June 6, 2014 | By |

San Diego, CA- June 6, 2014

Download Free Publication and Linkage Table

ISOS Group, in association with academics, consultants and electronic industry sustainability experts— is pleased to announce the release of a new resource document that highlights synergies between the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) Code of Conduct with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Reporting Guidelines.  This is the first is a series of documents aimed at linking leading initiatives, protocols and standards with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G4 Guidelines.

As a leading provider of GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting Trainings and expert practice, ISOS is in the unique position to deliver knowledge and tools to help pave the way for the sustainability field.  Though the development of the document entitled, “Linking up EICC with GRI: How the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition’s (EICC®) Code of Conduct aligns with the GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines” was led by ISOS — it is really the product of a multi-stakeholder process taken over the last 9 months.  The goal is to provide a go-to resource highlighting the interplay between GRI and the EICC Code, which will reduce the burden of sorting through lengthy documents and lost time associated with drawing alignment to each commitment.

The EICC Code of Conduct provides social, ethical and environmental guidelines for the electronics industry, just as GRI has provided a detailed framework for reporters to convey business goals, risks and impacts to their stakeholders. From early on, the world’s leading electronics companies, which formed the EICC coalition, realized that their greatest risks lie in their supply chain abroad and that change required a collaborative approach. They have since been instrumental in mobilizing companies to improve operating efficiency and raise levels of responsibility for social, ethical and environmental impact throughout the global electronics supply chain.

As the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework, corporate businesses, public agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industry groups, small enterprises, municipal governments and other entities across sectors realized the need to broaden the GRI Guidelines to address supply chain impacts as well. The 4th Generation of the GRI Guidelines released in May 2013 does just that. Disclosure items are aimed to expand the scope of responsibility outside an organization’s operational control. The new supply chain focus supports the EICC Code in a way not seen before, as the Code weighs heavily on supply chain management.

“Linking up EICC with GRI” includes descriptions and comparisons of each sustainability guidelines’ implementation strategies, purposes, tools and resources, sustainability principles, requirements and frameworks. In addition to case studies from Dell, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm, the report includes tables that list EICC Code components with GRI G4 indicators that contain similar sustainability information and requirements. By effectively linking the EICC Code and the GRI G4, a company producing an annual sustainability report will experience a higher quality and more efficient reporting process.

This publication, released by ISOS, comes at an important time when many in the electronics industry are being required to file conflict mineral reports in addition to their voluntary annual sustainability reports.  It is with great hope that users of this document and the more detailed linkage worksheet will be able to streamline efforts – when time can be best spent implementing improvement measures.

A summary of “Linking Up EICC with GRI” can be downloaded free of charge. And the linkage table (listing all GRI indicators and linkages to corresponding EICC Code principles) can be downloaded for a fee at http:

About ISOS Group:

ISOS Group is a leading sustainability services agency. They work with organizations of all sizes and business sectors across the globe to provide tools and guidance in integrated sustainability reporting. Their expertise includes training and certification, consultancy to guide organizations throughout the reporting cycle, stakeholder engagement and materiality, content development, branding and design, third party assurance and external recognition. ISOS Group is a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Certified Training Partner and a CDP Silver Education and Training Partner in the U.S.


07 Mar


ISOS Group offering CDP training on Climate Change reporting

March 7, 2014 | By |

March 7, 2014

San Diego, CA- March 7, 2014: In building upon its success as a GRI Certified Training Partner, ISOS Group, LLC intends to launch CDP training sessions across the United States following CDP’s 8th Annual Spring Workshop slated for March 17th.  As the world’s largest voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reporting organization, CDP works on behalf of 767 institutional investors representing US$92 trillion in assets to assess risk across a broad spectrum of sustainability considerations, including climate change risk in their investment portfolios. CDP provides a transformative global system for thousands of companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.  As an official Silver Consultancy Education & Training Partner, ISOS is set to deliver full day (8 hour) in-person sessions aimed at facilitating improvements in climate change disclosure.

“CDP has created a lot of traction in the US and the time is ripe for taking environmental disclosure to the next level. Environmental reporting Education is key to better understanding CDP’s guidance documents, scoring criteria and best-practices,” says ISOS Co-Founder, Alexandru Georgescu.

Since 2008, ISOS has trained nearly 2,000 in GRI-based Sustainability Reporting- ranging from corporate representatives, non-profits, government agencies, academics and consultants. Nancy Mancilla, ISOS Co-Founder and lead educator adds, “We are excited about being able to help satisfy the growing appetite for practical knowledge in this space and look forward to serving CDP – just as we have done for GRI over the years.”

“ISOS Group’s excellent track record in providing guidance and instruction to a wide variety of stakeholders on sustainability reporting make them an ideal partner to provide these new CDP education & training sessions, which are designed to help companies improve the quality of their CDP climate change disclosure.” says Stephen Donofrio, Vice President, Partnerships & Innovation at CDP.

CDP has opened this pilot initiative up to only a handful of entities. Committed to building a more sustainable economy, ISOS feels honored to play a role in expanding CDP’s mission. In addition to ISOS’ ongoing team of trainers, GHG inventory experts Coto-Consulting and climate risk consultancy Four Twenty Seven LLC will contribute to course content and delivery on greenhouse gas accounting, verification and risk mitigation.

April 18: San Diego @ ISOS/CoMerge

April 21: San Francisco @ Baker & McKenzie

April 25: NYC @ L’Oreal USA

May 7: Seattle @ Alaska Air

To reserve your seat, sign up at:

CDP is an independent not-for-profit organization providing a global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share climate change and water information. Over 4,000 organizations across the world’s largest economies disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and assessment of climate change and water risk and opportunity through CDP, so that they can set reduction targets and make performance improvements.  CDP’s mission is to transform the global economic system to prevent dangerous climate change and value our natural resources by putting relevant information at the heart of business, investment and policy decisions.Its homepage is

ISOS Group, LLC is an innovative, fully integrated sustainability consultancy, serving the needs of organizations across all industries. From its office in California, one of the largest economies in the world and leaders in climate change policy, ISOS Group is well positioned to provide added value to the growing market. Our team of GRI Certified practitioners offers an unmatched blend of skills in sustainability reporting, external assurance of CSR, carbon reporting, third-party GHG verification and stakeholder engagement. This acknowledgement comes as an extension to ISOS’ status as GRI Certified Training Partner in the U.S. for nearly 6 years and U.S. and a CDP Silver Consultancy Partner since 2012. Its homepage is

07 Jan


Green Purchasing by Uncle Sam – Are You a Federal Government Supplier – Contractor?

January 7, 2014 | By |

by Hank Boerner, Chairman, G&A Institute

The United States Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the U.S.A., and some project, in the world. (US$500 billion in the latest budget.) So – if you are selling to Uncle Sam, tune in to the guidelines recently published the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). In December EPA proposed (in draft form) rules for “greener and safer” products to be purchased by the Federal government.

The public comment period is open but expect that sometime soon we will see the official guidelines for supplier companies to follow. Part of the initiative is to assess the growing number of “eco-labels” in use by trade associations, NGOs, standard setters, etc.

Says EPA: “These guidelines will make it easier for Federal purchasors to meet the existing goal of 95 percent sustainable purchases, while spurring consumers and private sector to use and demand greener and safer products…” The EPA and the GSA (General Services Administration) created the guidelines for agencies and departments to use in their sourcing.

To emphasize: The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to ensure 95 percent of new contracts to be “green.”

The EPA/GSA initiative is one of the most recent steps in a continuing journey toward greater sustainability by the Federal government. Executive Order #13514 got this journey going in earnest in October 2009, soon after President Barack Obama got his administration up and running and cabinet posts filled. It’s officially the “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance” mandate for all government agencies to follow.

Haven’t been following this EO? How about the one in August 2012 — “Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency?” There’s sure to be lots of risk and opportunities inherent in this EO, which addresses the US industrial sector use of energy (30% of the total usage). The Feds will encourage investment in combined heat and power systems (CHP); the effort involves key departments — Energy, Commerce, Agriculture, EPA, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

There’s lots going on at the Federal government level, and in similar activities in the trickle down into state and municipal governments, as some of the spate of EO’s call for assistance to public agencies at local levels.

We’ll be visiting the Federal government’s dramatic journey to greater sustainability to bring you more news and details…that could present risk or opportunity to your organization.

And in February (25 and 26) at the World Bank in Washington DC, Governance & Accountability Institute and partners, ISOS Group, will present a 2-day, interactive sustainability materiality and reporting workshop for public sector agencies and their suppliers and contractors. This is the kick off of the GRI Business Transparency Program in the USA for the Public Sector (all levels). Participants will receive certification and will enjoy specialized guidance during the 6 months that follow by G&A and ISOS.

For more information on registration —

Sector-specific sessions are now scheduled for Food & Agriculture, Beauty & Chemical, Energy & Utilities, Hotels & Tourism. Details are at the above web site page.

You can also learn more about the agencies that you do business with as they publish their progress reports on sustainability. These are due this month (all agencies are supposed to report in January of each year). Also, the largest of the Federal contractors – think of Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics – are publishing sustainability reports.

Also – look at the US Postal Service and the US Army sustainability reports to get an idea of what your customers are saying about their role in the Federal sustainability journey.

Watch this space for news & updates on Federal government actions…especially as the White House issues Executive Orders in President Obama’s second (and last) term in office.

24 May


UN Global Compact (UNGC) and U.S. Companies

May 24, 2013 | By |

By Cristina Garza @isosgroup

Since its launch in July 2000, the UN Global Compact (UNGC) has grown to more than 10,000 participants from 145 countries. Its current base of more than 7,000 signatory businesses, as of October 2012, makes it the largest transnational organization in the world. However, it lacks the power to globally convene and influence relevant social actors including companies, governments, labor, and civil society organizations, especially in the U.S., despite the fact that it specifically seeks to influence these parties.

The number of U.S. companies adhering to the UN´s call for corporate responsibility is noticeably behind the total number of signatories of other nations. This is even more evident in relative terms, when we consider the percentage of signatories out of the total number of a country’s companies. Why are U.S. companies not compelled to participate? Do they not perceive value in adhering to the Global Compact?


A number U.S. companies are being delisted from the Global Compact because they do not meet the Communication on Progress (COP) requirements. As of this May, out of 499 U.S. participants, 6 percent (19 out of 277) large companies have been delisted. This number seems low compared to the 23 percent of small and medium-seized enterprises or SMEs (62 out of 268 registered companies) that have been delisted. In other words, it seems that smaller firms, which outnumber large companies by a wide margin, do not perceive sufficient value in allocating resources to comply with the Global Compact´s requirements. This is in part because small-to- medium sized enterprises (SMEs) do not have the necessity to fill the governability gaps that result from operating in less developed countries. Corporate legitimacy is usually questioned when a company extends its supply chain and manufacturing into countries lacking appropriate regulations regarding labor, human rights, the environment and anti-corruption. Hence, companies operating abroad (which usually translate into large companies) seek to regulate their operations through adherence to the UNGC´s principles and subsequently report on their CSR activities. This pattern also occurs with domestically oriented firms, which perceive no real benefit from a membership to the UN Global Compact as they operate in their well regulated homeland.

Still, CSR initiatives are increasingly being required by institutional investors and large business customers, and it appears that U.S.-based companies are opting for other frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (read a summary of the new guidelines here). More than 53 percent of S&P 500 companies reported according to this framework in 2012. In Steen Knudsen’s words, “the UN Global Compact offers a ´one seize fits all solution regarding CSR reporting.” It is a principles-based, flexible initiative with no specific compliance indicators.


The flexibility of the standard has meant that companies have been opting to shift towards other reporting standards that better fit their needs, usually those providing specific, measurable indicators that adapt to the seize of the company and its sector, and that provide the possibility to select the most suitable reporting parameters.

In the case of larger firms, some argue that it is the nature of the UNGC’s principles that is preventing them from becoming members, especially because, even though it is non-binding, it is presented to legally-oriented firms. For example, Principle 3 states that: “Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.” Dow Chemicals resisted becoming a member because they considered this principle would cast them as pro-union, thus setting up the possibility of lawsuits from activists. Also, General Electric avoided becoming a member because they faced pressures from activists in relation to their anti-discriminatory pledges. GE and other U.S. firms have been working in advancing human rights through specific business initiatives and have helped the UN reassign responsibility of human rights to national governments, while keeping businesses a partner in implementing such principles into their practices.

There is no doubt that the UNGC has proven its success in becoming the world’s largest transnational initiative, its challenge lies now not in attracting more participants, but to retain them. There are a small number of U.S. based companies now signing up, and signatories keep being delisted. Continuation of this pattern will create a rigorous reporting paradigm, and make it easier for organizations to report their commitments. Despite new guidance on how to meet COP requirements by way of a GRI-based Sustainability Report and the Global Compact Differentiation Program, many organizations still don’t have the resources to meet COP requirements UNGC is a great instrument to compensate regulation voids for companies operating abroad, and should focus on these types of companies instead of seeking to recruit all types of members who not always perceive value in adhering to its principles. It may be that the value of adherence provides a launching pad for strategic sustainability that is to follow.

22 May


Global Reporting Initiative-GRI G4

May 22, 2013 | By |

Previous iterations of the Global Reporting Initiative’s standards have been all-inclusive, encouraging reporters to report widely on their environmental, social and governance issues.  Some critics of the G3.1 and G3 standards complained that they rewarded breadth over depth by categorizing reports into three levels (A, B and C) – with the “best grade” given to the reports with the biggest scope. 

G4 represents a big shift in the standard – away from “put it all out there” to “less is more” – so long as what gets reported is material to the organization. The new standards ask reporters to use the sustainability report to document what really matters- a big shift away from reporting on everything the company monitors.

First things first. The G4 is split into two complementary documents: a manual consisting of the principles and standard disclosures themselves and a separate implementation manual to help reporters make their way through the process. The second document details the necessary steps a reporter needs to take to launch and manage a sustainability reporting process within any organization, regardless of their level of experience. The first document offers flexibility for preparers to choose which disclosures to focus on and how to align efforts to local/regional report requirements and frameworks. In addition, new clarifications on how to report on shared supply chain impacts outside of operational control will hopefully support organizations in taking additional responsibility for supply chain sustainability and governance.

Here are the key changes reporters need to know about from G4:


Gone are the lettered reporting levels (A, B, and C) that encouraged American reporters to go for that A+. There will now be an “in accordance” system with two distinct tracks: an entry level track for General disclosures and a more Comprehensive track.

The concept of full or partial coverage will no longer be relevant. Now, reports can only be “in accordance” or not. If a company does not have all the data available, in order to be “in accordance,” it now must disclose omissions using detailed guidance within the G4.

Organizations can still determine the depth of reporting they wish to undertake. For the immediate future (approximately three months), GRI will continue to offer Application Level Checks. The board of directors will then meet in September to discuss continuation and/or approach to offering this service now that the levels are going away.

What happens to companies that choose not to be “in accordance”? Reporters that refer to GRI as a guide, but do not fully implement the principles and components are not required to publish a Content Index. They are however, encouraged to state that the Guidelines were referred to.


Materiality will continue to be emphasized in prompts throughout the guidelines. Where issues are deemed material, reporters will be required to disclose on those issues.

When organizations are unable to measure and/or track all material aspects or indicators, they will need to acknowledge the relevance and admit limitations in data availablility.

G4 will not require a reporting organization to discuss each indicator – as with the previous A level scenario. Now reporters only need to discuss those that relate to a material aspect. That means that organizations with a large staff of knowledge workers in the U.S. and no physical products, probably do not need to spend much time addressing supply chain issues. For new reporters, this may make things easier as only one indicator from each material aspect requires a response. However, it may require more preparation as going through the materiality process is essential and more details may be required.

Materiality Revisited: It is likely that organizations will be asked to select aspects solely within one or a pair of categories, as opposed to the many different aspects A level reporters were previously expected to report on. This means that some of the reporting process will be a judgment call since organizations need to determine what they can feasibly report on.


DMAs will now be more focused at the Aspect level (GRI’s term for general fields of sustainability performance, like Energy Use or Labor/Management Relations) – meaning that companies will disclose on how they manage each Aspect separately. Makes sense, right? More Generic DMAs will allow for several aspects to be grouped together and addressed at the Category level (one step up). Three distinct elements will help guide reporters in reporting. First, organizations will explain why an Aspect is material and which impacts make it material, second, how the organization manages impacts, and third, which mechanisms are in place for evaluating the management approach.

Though a General Disclosure item will also prompt organizations to describe the supply chain and shared impacts, supply chain mapping as proposed in the exposure drafts will not be a required step in the process. Considering shared impacts across the supply chain and determining who is affected will be an integral concept fed throughout.


Current Sector Supplements (specific reporting guidelines for various industries) will be adapted to Sector Disclosure Tables- starting with Financial Services and Mining & Metals. All others will be adapted soon after along with additional sectors developed in time.


The guidelines now allow for external (third party) assurance to be conducted by different organizations for different impact areas. Disclosures about the assurance should be indicated in the Content Index accordingly.


All in all, these changes will make the G4 much more straightforward and easy for newcomers and experience reporters alike. The development of the guidelines took two years, and GRI went through nearly one thousand drafts to reach these final edits. The development of these guidelines required extensive stakeholder consultation. Working Groups from across the world contributed feedback as did thousands of individuals around the world. GRI should be applauded for conducting such a thorough process and using this enormous amount of feedback effectively to produce a simple and effective guideline for reporting.

If you want to learn more about the G4, a bridging module on the G4 will be incorporated into all the ISOS Group GRI certified sustainability reporter trainings happening after July 1st. A free webinar will also be available (soon!) for ISOS Group’s past course participants. Visit our GRI training page to sign up for a full course.

16 Jan


GRI Sustainability Reporting in Public Agencies

January 16, 2013 | By |

While conducting the GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting trainings, ISOS Group has had the great fortune of meeting sustainability champions all across the U.S. When we first started down this path almost five years ago, we found that the GRI Framework was largely embraced by multinational corporations headquartered on American soil. Though that is no longer the case, we continue to receive questions about the breadth of application. In addition to a wide array of corporations, we have started to see an uptake in solely domestic enterprises, including small-to-medium sized businesses, academic institutions and even public agencies within the federal sphere, state agencies and even municipalities more recently. Therefore, our answer is always:

“Yes, GRI is applicable to organizations of all sizes and the flexibility of the framework allows organizations to tell their story and describe what exactly sustainability means for them.”

In thinking about the feedback received during our courses in 2012, one thing seems clear- we are witnessing a paradigm shift and it’s our belief that the stories of the public agencies will surface much more readily over the coming year. One of our recent speakers, Linda Glasier from the Washington Department of Ecology put it best when describing initial hurdles her agency had to overcome in producing their first GRI report:

“Public agencies factor in both commitment to mission and caution in breaking new ground when we start to discuss transparency and sustainability”.

Why is that? Our public agencies owe the populous solutions to our societal ills. The citizenry wants and needs to be part of the solution. We all want to make our states and our nation greater right? Answers to these questions lay at the very heart of sustainability principles regardless of framework used. Initial steps require a sometimes new and self exploratory process to determine relevant impacts that can be addressed. Engagement is essential whether it is internal or external. Ultimately, people want to feel like their voices count.

During the same panel discussion held during our recent training just outside Portland, Cindy Dolezel, Beaverton-Oregon’s Sustainability Manager, added:

“A community is empowered when they see that the City is listening to their voices and completing actions they have requested. The City of Beaverton strives to engage with the community around sustainability issues and to emphasize the need for a holistic approach that considers the community, environment, and the economy. Through these efforts we have gained trust from the community about the City’s approach to sustainability.”

That speaks volumes for public agencies, particularly during a time when the health of our economy and political system is not what we would like it to be. Now, although the city of Beaverton is not currently producing a GRI-based sustainability report, they have joined the likes of other cities across the country, such as Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Atlanta that instituted a sustainability framework. Beaverton has a clear understanding that collaboration and working across disciplines is essential in their efforts to move forward. Through internal collaboration, the City has managed to leverage several grants to aid in sustainability initiatives.

“Once the City had a few big wins under its belt, Beaverton started to clearly see what could be done and what was still needed. We quickly realized the need for a cohesive strategy to move toward targeted goals. To do this, we created an internal plan to integrate sustainability into City operations and day-to-day activities.”- Cindy Dolezel

The tempo at which we plunge into the world of sustainability, is different. For Linda Glasier, she came into a project that had already been initiated. However, it was stalled. She had to quickly assume the role of mediator to help translate methodic principles between different personalities, and agencies, while uncovering the fire that would lead the agency to their goal of releasing the first ever state environmental public agency GRI report. Besides the need to meet EPA grant requirements, the agency was driven to build greater relationships with the business community that they regulate- many of which are producing GRI reports. Glasier argued,

“We need to speak the same language, so that we can work together to build a better state!”

Though these reports are just as different as you and me, there are a few commonalities not only within public agencies, but across all sectors of the economy. Issues related to environmental management of energy, waste and water, labor or “ethics”, and financial health tend to be common points for public agencies. Green procurement, however, is not only the most common, it is the most influential and most widely used to manage any intuitions footprint. Like the saying, you are what you eat, in sustainability, your footprint is what you buy. How might all this sustainability activity influence the suppliers to these sorts of entities?

When looking through the crystal ball for 2013, the possibility of growth in sustainability reporting from public agencies seems endless, including throughout their supply chains. Others have already pioneered this space and we can all learn from their experiences and leadership examples. Fall River, Massachusetts has just published the very first A level GRI report for a U.S. City. Linda Glasier helped spearhead the publication of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s first GRI report. The San Diego Regional Airport Authority and the Port of Los Angeles have released ground-breaking GRI reports within their sector. The U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Army, NREL and PNNL have also been instrumental in influencing others within their value chain that have even appeared at our courses.

In closing, we would like to leave you with a few words of advice from our recent Vancouver, Washington guest presenters…..

“This type of transformative change, takes time. Use techniques like the Natural Step to determine your vision for what you want to achieve. Backcasting will help envision the steps needed to get there.” / Scott Lewis, CEO, Brightworks

“Share your successes, struggles, and future goals with the stakeholders. As you engage with people, find ways to give them ownership and listen to their voices. Every organization is different, but I encourage everyone to start big – focus internally and on engaging the community at the same time – remember your goal and understand that the process will unfold to get you there.” / Cindy Dolezel,  Sustainability Manager, City of Beaverton

“Be prepared to receive mixed feedback. Acknowledge that there are lessons in all feedback.” / Linda Glasier, Environmental Specialist, WA State Department of Ecology.

01 Jan


GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines

January 1, 2013 | By |


GRI will publish the fourth version of its Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (G4) at the end of May 2013. For those interested in using the G4 Guidelines as soon as possible, the Global Reporting Initiative strongly recommends that you complete the current G3.1 GRI Certified Training Course now, and then sign up for the G4 Bridging Module course in mid-2013.

Here’s how it works:

MAY 2013: GRI will launch the G4 Guidelines at its Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting in Amsterdam beginning on May 22, 2013, with a special pre-conference training exclusively for the GRI Certified Training Partners around the world, including ISOS Group.

JUNE 2013: After the public announcement of the G4 Guidelines, GRI will release the GRI Certified G4 Bridging Module, specifically designed for those who have already completed the GRI Certified G3.1 Training.

SUMMER 2013: ISOS Group will offer two ways to get trained on G4:

  • A webinar will highlight the key differences between the G3/G3.1 and the G4 Guidelines.
  • GRI Certified G4 Bridging Module will be offered as an add-on option (priced separately) to our regular two-day trainings, providing more in-depth coverage of G4.

All attendees of ISOS Group G3.1 training courses offered through May 2013 will automatically qualify for a FREE webinar and/or a 50% DISCOUNT on the GRI Certified G4 Bridging Module.

FALL 2013: After the release of the official G4 Bridging Module to its training partners, GRI will finalize and release the full two-day GRI Certified G4 Training course materials. ISOS expects to introduce the G4 course in the last quarter of 2013.

Additionally, the G3.1 Guidelines will be in effect for another two years, providing G3.1 reporters ample time to transition to the G4 Guidelines.


Sign up now for one of the upcoming GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting Trainings in your town @TRAINING EVENTS.

28 Dec


HCP Inc. (NYSE:HCP) announces publication of its inaugural GRI Sustainability Report

December 28, 2012 | By |

img_gri_hcpiHCP Inc. (NYSE:HCP), a leading health care real estate investment trust (REIT), announced the publication of its inaugural GRI Sustainability Report: Growing Business, Promoting Sustainability, Building Partnerships, covering calendar year 2011. The report was developed in accordance with the internationally recognized Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G3.1 sustainability reporting framework at a B Level. HCP’s Sustainability Report demonstrates the Company’s commitment to integrating sustainability practices into its core business strategy.

Other sustainability Highlights of key sustainability efforts and accomplishments achieved by the Company, many of which are detailed further in the 2012 GRI Sustainability Report, include:

  • Achieved leadership in the number of Medical Office Building (MOB) ENERGY STAR certifications for facili­ ties (inside and outside our boundary) with a total of 17 ENERGY STAR labels. In the second quarter of 2011, HCP was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as having the most ENERGY STAR certifications in the MOB category by any property owner.Reduced energy consumption by 3% in 2011, and 13% since the beginning of our participation in the ENERGY STAR program in 2006, across all prop­ erties benchmarked in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
  • Decreased utility expenses in 2011 by $1.4 million on a same­property basis versus 2010 in our MOB portfolio.
  • Received awards from the Leader in the Light program, sponsored by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), in five of the last six years, including the Innovator of the Year Award in 2011. The award recognizes its member companies that have demonstrated superior portfolio-wide energy use practices and sustainability initiatives. HCP received the highest score among all healthcare REITs and real estate companies that comprised the healthcare sector in the 2012 competition.
  • Finished first (1st) in the MOB category and eighth (8th) overall out of 245 build­ ings in ENERGY STAR’s 2011 National Building Competition with our Thornton MOB in Thornton, Colorado. This build­ ing reduced energy consumption by nearly 34% year over year, resulting in more than $100,000 in energy savings.
  • Released Investor Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) reports for 2011.

The GRI report was developed with the assistance of ISOS Group, one of the leading sustainability and carbon reporting consultancies in the United States. To view HCP’s 2012 GRI Sustainability Report, visit

02 Oct


ISOS Group becomes Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Silver consultancy partner in the U.S.

October 2, 2012 | By |



San Diego, CA- October 2, 2012: ISOS Group, LLC is pleased to announce its recent status as a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Silver Consultancy Partner in the U.S. As the world’s largest voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reporting organization, CDP works on behalf of 655 institutional investors representing US78 trillion in assets to assess risk across a broad spectrum of sustainability considerations, including climate change risk in their investment portfolios. CDP provides a transformative global system for thousands of companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.

“ISOS Group has an excellent track record in carbon and sustainability reporting and we are pleased to welcome them as a silver consultancy partner in the U.S.” says Paul Robins, Head of Corporate Partnerships at CDP.

cdp-linkedin-logo-largeCDP invites a limited number of organizations as partners and ISOS feels honored to join the ranks of those worldwide that have demonstrated a commitment to building a more sustainable economy. Building upon its successes in facilitating awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and advising organizations of all sizes in developing and publishing GRI-based sustainability reports, ISOS Group’s team of experts is equipped to further drive the adoption of the CDP process across all sectors in the US.

In addition to its current sustainability reporting services, ISOS will provide clients with a full suite of services including CDP Response Check and guidance on corporate approaches to reporting on and reducing greenhouse gases.

Alexandru Georgescu and Nancy Mancilla, founders of ISOS Group note that:

“Operating out of California, one of the largest economies in the world and leaders in climate change policy in the U.S., ISOS Group is well positioned to support CDP’s mission towards greater transparency around carbon reporting. We have established an industry position in this field, and we believe that this partnership with CDP further enhances our value proposition to our corporate clients, allowing us to better respond to their carbon and water reporting needs and validate compliance with the relevant standards, be they regulatory or voluntary”.

The Carbon Disclosure Project is an independent not-for-profit organization providing a global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share climate change and water information. Over 4,000 organizations across the world’s largest economies disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and assessment of climate change and water risk and opportunity through CDP, in order that they can set reduction targets and make performance improvements.  CDP’s mission is to transform the global economic system to prevent dangerous climate change and value our natural resources by putting relevant information at the heart of business, investment and policy decisions. Its homepage is

ISOS Group is an innovative, fully integrated sustainability consultancy, serving the needs of organizations across all industries. Our team of GRI certified practitioners offers an unmatched blend of skills in sustainability reporting, external assurance of CSR, carbon reporting, third party GHG verification and stakeholder engagement. ISOS is a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Certified Training Partner and a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Silver Consultancy Partner in the U.S. Its homepage is



Further Information:

Alexandru Georgescu, CFO and Co-Founder
619 866-ISOS (4764)
ISOS Group |

18 Aug


Using GRI to Compare Apples to Apples in Sustainability Reporting

August 18, 2011 | By |

It will not come as news to sustainability readers that social and environmental issues can have a short and long term impact on the financial performance of a company. But, objectively measuring a company’s sustainability performance is easier said than done.

Sustainability reports are as different as each of us. They vary in format, material issues selected, boundary and scope, and cultural orientation which makes it very difficult to judge performance based on a common set of indicators.

Investment institutions like Bloomberg, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index or FTSE4Good have some of the more widely recognized methods of reviewing corporate sustainability. But they aren’t the only companies in the game.

Groups like CSRHUB and Sustainability HQ have a deep knowledge of sustainability principals. They have successfully developed systems that make it possible to query a full range of sustainability data and share it with a broad audience. CSRHUB Cofounder Cynthia Figge says, “We aggregate data from more than 100 sources to provide our users with a comprehensive source of CSR information on nearly 5,000 publicly traded companies in 65 countries.”

ISOS Group has capitalized on the standardization of the GRI reporting framework to create another measurement system.

Since the GRI framework is standardized, a true apples to apples comparison is possible. ISOS Group has developed a framework to quantitatively measure the strength of a GRI report, and we have collected dozens of reviews of reports using the framework. These all add up to a strong body of data that allows us to compare companies between sectors on the basis of the quality of their reporting.

In 2010, we assessed Walmart, Southwest Airlines, Qualcomm Incorporated, Bucyrus, Johnson & Johnson, Holland America, NextEra, Medtronic, Mattel, Citigroup, UPS, Sempra Energy, State Street or HP on all tests associated with the Quality and Content Principles in the GRI reporting framework. Although not all of the selected reports were GRI-based, all had referred to the framework to some degree as a guide for developing their reports and therefore, could undergo a common set of tests.

According to the final results, HP rated highest, while Walmart lagged in all areas. On average, most reporters failed to effectively apply Materiality and Stakeholder Inclusiveness, (which are key components of a GRI report). This shows that we are still in the elementary stages of sustainability reporting and that the best we can do is to educate ourselves on the importance of applying the right principles to the reporting process.

In order to improve in these areas, reporters should consider:

  • Materiality: Moving away from siloed decision-making on relevant performance indicators. Consider your sustainability context and related impacts, gather input from others, prioritize and chart those that are most relevant for the organization. Explain the process! Refer to Symantec or SAP’s Materiality Matrix and description as best-cases.
  • Stakeholder Inclusiveness: First brainstorm all the groups that affect or are affected by your company’s daily activities. Prioritize each group and think about ways that you currently interact with them. Consider methods for obtaining their input on your sustainability related activities. Don’t be afraid of engaging in stakeholder dialogue! Refer to Kimberly Clark’s testament to their interactions with environmental groups for an example on how opportunities can flourish from building deeper relationships with external groups.
  • Balance: A purely positive report doesn’t work to transform business practices. Include both positive and negative performance and set targets for improving efforts in the short and long-term. It’s highly unlikely that you will receive criticism for sharing both the good and the bad. Take a look at Weyerhaeuser or 7th Generation’s report for examples of honest reporting.
  • Comparability: Readers may not be able to determine whether your performance was positive unless they have something to compare it to. Provide some point of comparison for your disclosures, whether it is based on year-to-year performance, industry averages or against your peers. Utilize tools, such as CSRHUB to draw comparable data and include illustrations! Refer to 2010 Qualcomm Social Responsibility report ‘Total Lost Time Injury & Illness Rate’ or ‘Direct Energy Consumption’ disclosures for a quick example of how easily this can be done.
  • Reliability: How reliable is the data when mention of a sound process for tracking and analyzing data is absent from the report? Claims made in the report should be supported by internal controls and systems should be strong enough to undergo possible examination by external parties. Refer to long – time reporter, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) 2010 report under ‘Transparency’ for a great example!
  • Accuracy: Express measurement techniques, estimates, assumptions and bases for calculations so that the reader can trust your claims! Refer to Chevron’s recent report– they do a terrific job at footnoting.

We have already started another round of assessments by looking at 2010 reports from 14 companies with others planned as they come online. In order to build greater value from this education experience, results are then offered to the reporting organizations as critical feedback and to registries, such as CSRHUB.

There is no customary form required by law for this type of reporting, yet there are guidelines we can follow that have been developed and used by thousands of groups globally. Someday, a tool for comparing apples to apples may enter the market. However, until that day comes, we will have to rely on our educated judgment of the GRI to determine the quality of reports and supporting systems. Essentially, mastering the use of GRI’s Quality and Content Principles provides an un-matched authenticity for reporting.

If you want to learn more about the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) sustainability framework and become a certified sustainability reporter, consider attending one of ISOS Group’s  GRI certifications in Sustainability Reporting.

22 Mar


Beyond SSPPs: GRI Sustainability Reporting for Federal Agencies

March 22, 2011 | By |

Join us to hear from the nation’s federal agency sustainability leaders and learn how they use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework for sustainability reporting to enhance and expand their existing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP) efforts.

Date: Tuesday, March 22, 1:30 PM PST

Format: Moderated panel discussion with audience participation

Audience: Chief Sustainability Officers and federal agency staff responsible for developing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans (SSPPs); government contractors, sustainability service providers, sustainability reporters, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) stakeholders and U.S. Executive Order 13514 stakeholders, environmental policy analysts.

Hosts: Concept Green and ISOS Group

Registration link:

Participants will gain an overview of GRI reporting standards, explore the linkages (and gaps) between SSPPs and GRI reporting, and hear first-hand from the federal agency early adopters of the GRI reporting framework.

Representatives from the U.S. Army, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will share how they use the GRI reporting standards to report their social, economic and environmental performance to their stakeholders.

Register now to ensure a space in the webinar. The event is complimentary, but space is limited to the first 100 registrants.

Matthew Holtry, Center for Sustainability, Noblis
John Fittipaldi, Senior Fellow, Army Environmental Policy Institute
Kathleen Judd, Senior Research Scientist, Greenhouse Gas Management and Sustainability, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Trisha Castranio, Sustainability Coordinator, National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences
Nancy Mancilla, CEO and Co-Founder, ISOS Group
Carrie McChesney, CEO and Founder, Concept Green

About ISOS Group: ISOS Group is an innovative sustainability consultancy firm providing sustainability assessments, GRI sustainability reporting certifications, guidance throughout the reporting process and external assurance of reports in addition to an array of supporting services. ISOS Group is a GRI Certified Trainer for North America and is currently offering GRI Sustainability Reporting certification courses. To find out more about our courses please refer to our CALENDAR.

About Concept Green: Concept Green is sustainability consulting firm that specializes in sustainabiilty reporting, program development and performance measures for large organizations. Concept Green is certified by the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council as a Woman-Owned Business and is proud to serve as an ISOS Group Collaborating Partner in executing GRI Certified Trainings in the Southwestern region of the U.S.

09 May


Can natural capital drive progress for Africa

May 9, 2016 | By |

Can Natural Capital drive progress for Africa?

Lead Contributor: Shenan Boit

May, 2016—Africa is a continent of extreme natural resource wealth, yet it still faces umprecedented challenges compared to other regions in the world. This is most likely a result of poor governance, low tax revenue and lack of local inputs and investments. Additionally, development is stalled by poor infrastructure, technological delays, limited market access, gender inequality, corruption, war and conflict, food-insecurity and disease. With growing inequality, high unemployment and a rapidly growing population of educated youth who have little to no income opportunities, African leaders must begin to adopt measures to ratify their countries’ situations.

Dialogue and attempts toward creating economic and sustainable development in Africa are not new concepts. They have been occurring for decades with mixed results. With Africa’s plethora of human and natural resources, the region should be able to slingshot itself toward the forefront of the marketplace in a responsible and sustainable manner – if it can utilize and mange these resources properly. The real question is – how?

  • What are the right development concepts?
  • What are the appropriate monitoring tools?
  • Who are the right people to bring to the development table?
The Summit for Sustainability in Africa

In the first Summit for Sustainability in Africa held in 2012, ten African countries met in order to determine how African nations and their investment partners understand, manage and value natural capital to support and improve human well-being. Natural capital is the natural assets that make human life possible, such as soil, air, water and animal life. The nations agreed that they were caught in a trend of resource exploitation that was not sustainable. They agreed that natural capital should be considered when reporting and developing practices, policies and programs.

The summit produced the Gaborone Declaration, “to ensure that the contributions of natural capital to sustainable economic growth, maintenance and improvement of social capital and human well-being are quantified and integrated into development and business practice.” At Rio +20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, these ten African nations united under the Gaborone Declaration and emerged as global leaders. By understanding and promoting natural capital for all its citizens the African region has started to find the right developmental concepts.

Transparency and Reporting in Africa

The next step is to effectively monitor and report on economic, environmental, social and governance practices that are successful or faltering. There has been global uptake in transparency and reporting. Citizens are demanding fairness and action. Political and corporate transparency is becoming the new normal. In this spirit, several African governments have begun publishing contracts online so as to not be left behind and. Nigeria is even making its budget public record.

Increasingly, large companies and organizations are creating transparency reports and making considerable strides to building local communities through skills transfer and investment. According to the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Database in 2015 held a total of 5,454 organizations producing GRI-based sustainability reports. Of these, 296 were based in Africa. While that number does not seem large it accounts for almost 1,000% percent growth rate from 29 reports produced just ten years before in 2005.

Almost all of Africa’s GRI reports originate from one country, South Africa. As a handful of South African organizations began reporting they realized how financially beneficial sustainability has proven to be. They saw increased efficiency, preventative risk identification, improved stakeholder and shareholder reputation and engagement, in addition to the attraction and retention of high-caliber staff. As one organization benefited from sustainability reporting the organizations nearby began to take note and started following the trend. With a handful of reporters in Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, we expect to see a domino effect – with many more organizations and nation states following suit.

As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting becomes more commonplace ESG monitoring systems will improve. The general public will grow accustom to transparency and will demand it. And with more transparency and community engagement, sustainable economic growth will emerge and help develop the African region. It has already started happening.

Interested in learning more? Join ISOS Group at Sustainable Brands, May 14-17 in Cape Town South Africa! We’ll be delivering a 3 hour hands-on session on alignment toward reporting efficacy!


25 Apr


Challenges and Benefits of Sustainability Reporting within the African context

April 25, 2016 | By |

Stimulating Progress: The Challenges & Benefits of Sustainability Reporting –
Write Up in Advance of Sustainable Brands South Africa

April, 2016—Studies suggest that non-financial reporting, otherwise known as sustainability reporting, “can build public trust, increase efficiency and mitigate risks, while also boosting stakeholder confidence, trust and loyalty.” But how can one document serve so many interests? The secret lies within the underlying systems that support non-financial reporting efforts.

Professionals in this blooming industry often refer to the practices undertaken in other countries to assess best practices. Aside from seasoned reporters, many have encountered a prolonged discovery phase where they are primarily focused on understanding the various concepts at hand, defining the sustainability vision for the company and determining what’s relevant.

Regardless of an organization’s reporting journey status, we’ve found the following challenges hinder organizations’ capacity to leverage the value that comes from sustainability reporting. By coming to terms with these universal challenges, reporters can transform barriers into leadership opportunities.

Challenges and Benefits of Sustainability Reporting
Challenge recommendation
  • Couple proven frameworks and industry benchmarks with compliance measures.
  • Educate personnel on a sustainability management plan detailing reporting mechanisms, roles and cadence for quality controls will help reduce discrepancies.
———– ———–
  • Connect issues to demonstrate a holistic view of the factors that affect the organization’s ability to create value over time, including financials and the interrelatedness to material non-financial measures.
  • Strengthen the relationship between environmental matters and overall corporate strategy, performance and prospects, while providing context for how data is managed and what’s missing.
———– ———–
  • Assess organizational objectives, priorities and how solid disclosure will advance sustainability across the organization and beyond.
  • Make non-financial reporting strategic by build on emerging best practices for assessing risks, pursuing opportunities and enabling prompt mitigation efforts.
  • Establish protocols to maintain momentum and leverage marketplace recognition.

Transparency gained through reporting has enabled groups like AngloGold Ashanti to both address community conflicts and promote the social and environmental legacy changes the company is enacting. For instance, the South African-based company has introduced a two pronged strategy for environmental mine management; the first being “do no harm” and the second “managing legacies, including historical pollution and its impacts.” Toward this goal, the Company has sought approval by Ghana’s EPA for its new water management plan, sought to improve its waste management sites in and around the community, and is moving forward with plans to rehabilitate and clean up abandoned mining sites. By recognizing inherent and potential risks, the Company has established more focus dialogue with key stakeholders and advanced mitigation efforts. The sustainability report is a tool employed to continue that dialogue and demonstrate performance per commitments made.

Though groups like AngloGold Ashanti have already begun to inform strategy through the wide lens of sustainability, full integration has yet to be mastered. According to published results of a survey conducted by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in April 2015 3 , the practice of integrated reporting in South Africa has stimulated integrated thinking, but there is still a huge learning curve. A deeper level of understanding an experiential learning is necessary to derive benefits in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Beginning to untangle the carefully woven webs of issues, relevance, influencers and responsibilities require a systematic approach to connecting performance measures to strategic long-term objectives…and it’s no easy task. Sustainability reporting has significantly evolved since it was first introduced to the world by a few innovators in the 1990’s, but it’s no longer enough to pursue incremental change. We need disruptive, structural and fully integrated in organizations globally. It’s this move that will transform our ability to meet larger international objectives, realize the benefits associated with strategic sustainability and ring in a brighter tomorrow.

Interested in learning more? Join ISOS Group at Sustainable Brands, May 14-17 in Cape Town South Africa! We’ll be delivering a 3 hour hands-on session on alignment toward reporting efficacy!