The purpose of the parallel event is to spotlight the GRI, a new initiative inaugurated at the United Nations in April. Described as an "extraordinary coalition of companies, governments and pressure groups" from 51 countries around the world, it highlights the importance of corporate governance and sustainability reporting issues in local business. It is a growing trend that companies are expected to report not only on their financial performance, but also how they manage across a "triple bottom-line" of social, environmental and economic performance.
The initiative is emerging as the leading standard for sustainability reporting and is based on carefully formulated GRI Guidelines. These include numerous indicators of environmental, social and economic performance that are currently being tested by more than 100 companies worldwide, including Nokia, Procter and Gamble and South African Breweries.
At the parallel event, GRI representatives will present the 2002 GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, introduce members of the GRI board and provide participants with an opportunity to explore sustainability reporting after the Summit, and in particular, the GRI's role in this context.
The centrepiece of the gathering will be a panel discussion between leaders from the GRI's main constituencies. The keynote speaker will be the Honourable Mervyn King, Chair of the South African King Committee on Corporate Governance. Other panellists include Dr Judy Henderson, Chair of the GRI board and former Commissioner of the World Commission on Dams, Yolande Kakabadse, Chair of the IUCN, and Robert Kinloch Massie, Executive Director of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES).
Earlier this year Hill was asked to host a GRI workshop at UCT. "Recognising the importance of regional involvement, the workshop at UCT was intended to help GRI extend its partnerships among all sectors in South Africa," said Hill, who is also a representative on the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), South Africa. "The GRI plans to build strong alliances in the country this year and to develop long-term relationships with the South African partner organisations."
The proceedings were opened by the Graduate School of Business' Professor Nick Segal and attended by representatives of South African business, consulting and academic organisations. David Shandler from Common Ground Consulting acted as facilitator during the workshop sessions.
"The GRI typically work through universities because they want to be seen as non-aligned to business, labour or government," Hill said. Subsequent to the workshop he has provided comments to the GRI in response to issues raised by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The GRI plans to hold its first public consultation and briefing in Johannesburg in November. "The GRI are encouraging local organisations to adopt the guidelines," Hill added. "The long-term goal is to strengthen corporate accountability in the region while ensuring that these guidelines are applicable and acceptable in Africa and globally."
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