A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

Sustainable Value versus Accountability

February 19, 2011, Elaine Cohen published a factual analysis of the potential of the GRI – G4 format. This new format is scheduled for use in 2013 and will probably appear in use within 2015 reports.

This framework is the  potential for a company to make sustainability disclosures more accessible and allow for a robustness in the reporting format that provides the detail to report on that.  

As of 2009, 1500 companies from 60 countries use the GRI framework to complete a sustainability report. Yet there are 80,000 public companies that have not adopted use of this framework. There is increased recognition of global distress through out the economy due to harm of the environment, people and planet from many views.

Yet, it seems to me that while reporting for compliance has been a quality means by which to invite companies to begin to engage in sustainability, we know reporting and compliance on its own has  not mushroomed into the kind of response needed to accelerate the transformation of the global economy into a sustainable economy.

Elaine has provide me a depth of understanding this past year about CSR and Sustainability reporting above and beyond most.  Danisco, Elaine’s client, was selected to have authored the best practice CSR report from a company listed on NASDAQ.  I set a goal this year to understand the interplay between reporting and business strategy by studying Danisco’s practices; which I was unable to follow through on.

I recently was pushed to figure out how to begin with this activity when I read that Dupont acquired Danisco.  Like many, I am in line to understand the implications of this.  In order to prepare for this conversation and research, I brought a few questions to thestoryofmeaningfuluse, Eric Lowitt, contributing editor:

Lavinia: “Eric,  what distinguishes a great company creating sustainable value versus a company following GRI reporting framework ask an issue of compliance. Both Danisco and Clorox achieved recognition for quality sustainability reports, but I am wondering what distinguishes a Great Company Built to Last versus a company that simply complies with reporting requirements.

I was unable to extract from these reports, the actually story of how strategies by these companies were authored and put to work with what stakeholders over time for a documented ‘future value.”  Obviously Dupont can define “future value” of  Danisco with its $5.8B purchase price.

Does building actions for a report framework only imply “accountability,” or does it influence strategy and development of learning in action for future value?”

While this is one set of questions, I know this is just an introductory phase to some further research for both Eric and I, which has begun with these thoughts:

Eric: “Accountability. Modesty. And Accessibility. Accountability – tell us where you went wrong. Where you fell short of the mark. And tell us why. Modesty – we all make donations, we all aspire to live altruistically. Don’t tell us you saved the world; you moved the boulder up the hill. Tell us what you did without pretty prose or pretense. Trust us to be smart. To make our own decisions. To be able to interpret your actions appropriately. Accountability – tell us what you told us you were going to do in the last report. Then tell us what you did. If you fell short, explain why. If you exceeded the mark, explain how and why.

Note I didn’t say transparency. Transparency requires trustworthiness. Transparency requires observers fully trust the observed is disclosing everything they know. Who is to say if a company is transparent? In reality only the company itself can. I see the term ‘transparent’ used by a company in its sustainability report and I wonder what they’re hiding. It’s like a person who says ‘my honest opinion is…’ in reply to a question. Makes you wonder what they aren’t saying more than it makes you believe they are transparent.”

Eric and I have just cut at the surface on this thinking.  I am hoping we can build this into an inquiry event with participation from Sustainable Market Leaders and leading practitioners.

I believe it is time to build this dialogue into an examination of the metrics of health key  to transforming the global economy into a health economy for people, environment and society. Let me know what you think at any time.

Does the idea appeal to you, do you want to participate and if you put your imagination to work about this what would kind of capability would you like to see developed out of an NGO dedicated to housing this thought leadership and related practices?


Lavinia Weissman



1 Comment»

[…] Sustainable value builds accountability. […]

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