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Investors Press S&P 500 for Environmental, Social Disclosure
Oct 10, 2006
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Institutional investors called on S&P 500 companies to follow their European counterparts in using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to improve their public disclosure to shareholders on environmental and social issues. The announcement comes as GRI unveiled the new G3 reporting guidelines that elevate climate change as a key disclosure topic for companies to include in public reports.

GRI, launched by Ceres in 1999 and now an independent organization based in Europe, is a framework for corporate reporting on social, environmental and economic performance. GRI said more than 1,000 companies currently issue GRI-based sustainability reports, but fewer than 100 of those companies are in the U.S.

GRI is designed to provide investors with complete, transparent and consistent reporting from companies on a range of social and environmental issues. The new guidelines were developed over the past 2 years by investors, environmental groups, companies, and other stakeholders. Although substantially modified and streamlined from earlier versions, the new G3 guidelines retain the same 11 core principles of previous GRI reporting frameworks: transparency, inclusiveness, auditability, completeness, relevance, sustainability, context, accuracy, neutrality, comparability, clarity, and timeliness.

G3 also includes a new economic indicator designed to reveal the degree to which climate risk translates into financial risks for a given company.

Citing the reporting gap between U.S. and overseas companies, nine U.S. investors, including the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York City Comptroller’s Office, are sending letters this week to the S&P 500 companies calling for corporate disclosure using the new GRI reporting guidelines. The combined assets of the CalPERS and New York City retirement funds total more than $300 billion.

“Leading U.S. companies must do more to help investors understand the environmental and social threats they face, whether from climate change risks, resource challenges or workplace conditions,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges.

“Given that our assets are invested primarily in public companies, a fiduciary’s ability to assess a company’s long-term sustainability is critical,” said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, whose office manages $95 billion in assets. “If only for this purpose, companies must disclose the results of their economic, environmental and social performance using a common, universal protocol. The new GRI guidelines provide this much-needed global framework for sustainability reporting. I urge companies that are not now issuing such reports to do so.”

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