Behind the first 15 years of GRI sustainability reporting
This summer marked 15 years since the Global Reporting Initiative’s release of the first version of its sustainability reporting guidelines, "The June 2000 Guidelines." Let’s take a look back at some developments of the reporting guidelines and also see what the future holds for GRI.
The GRI was established in the autumn of 1997 by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) in collaboration with the Tellus Institute, a nonprofit research and advisory firm. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined shortly thereafter as an important partner. In early 1998 a steering committee was formed to guide the policy and overall direction of the GRI.
Creators of the GRI had great dreams to form an open stakeholder process that eventually will become a broad-based guideline for reporting on "people, planet, profit." On the one hand, this would serve as a good stepping stone for companies forming their reports. On the other hand, this would enable stakeholders to form a bigger picture and assessment of the sustainability performance of companies that would aid in the companies’ decision-making process.
Preceding the publication of the first edition of the GRI guidelines, which piloted 21 companies, were the draft guidelines published in March 1999. Former engineering consultancy DHV (now Royal HaskoningDHV) took the initiative to complete the Dutch translation of the first edition of the guidelines. On Dec. 7, 1999, DHV began hosting an annual seminar on CSR reporting, urging and showing companies what it means to disclose and report. The first seminar (Dutch) was a success, with over 100 participants.
Moreover, it is not to be forgotten that some notable Dutch names have played active roles from the outset when it comes to GRI: Nancy Kamp-Roelands; Johan Piet; and Piet Sprengers.
In 2001, GRI expressed its intention institutionalize the organization and to settle preferably with headquarters in Europe. During that time, DHV took the initiative and approached then-CEO Allen White, welcomed him to the Netherlands and consequently set up meetings with Allen and various Dutch government ministries and municipalities.
In April 2002, GRI decided to settle in Amsterdam (see Het Financieele Dagblad (Dutch)) over several other European cities. The then-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Gerrit Ybema, strongly supported the agreement and began allocating funds for the transition.
In late 2002, GRI had settled on Keizersgracht in the Netherlands, just alongside the Amsterdam canal. The CEO then was also a Dutchman: Ernst Ligteringen. In 2006, the first major international GRI conference was organized in Amsterdam; attendees included Al Gore and then-Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander. The fifth annual Congress will take place May 20 in Amsterdam, just as all of the four previous of the annual Congresses.