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October 12, 2011
GRI Proposes Reporting Guidelines for Ecosystem Impacts
    by Robert Kropp

With health of global ecosystems at risk, the Global Reporting Initiative proposes reporting on ecosystems impacts that go beyond general environmental reporting.

Despite the claims made last year at the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) of "a new era of living in harmony with Nature," in which "the ecosystems of the planet will continue to sustain human well-being into the future," biodiversity loss continues at a rate of between two and 4.5 trillion dollars per year, according to Economics of Environment and Biodiversity (TEEB).

A report issued by EIRIS shortly after the conference found that only six percent of companies in industry sectors having considerable impacts on biodiversity have good policies addressing the issue.

"Investors should take steps to understand the systematic risks that biodiversity loss represents to their investments," Carlota Garcia-Manas, Head of Research at EIRIS, said.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has now weighed in on the issue of reporting on ecosystems impacts, with a report entitled Approach for reporting on ecosystem services: Incorporating ecosystem services into an organizationís performance disclosure. The report proposes a new approach for developing sustainability reporting indicators for ecosystems impacts.

"How to guarantee society's activities and the maintenance of ecosystems at the same time," the report states, "is a pressing topic for companies now and will be for many generations to come." Using as its basis its current guidelines for sustainability reporting, GRI proposes the following options for corporate reporting on ecosystems impact:

Narrative reporting on strategy and management, requiring organizations to regularly assess their benefits from and reliance upon ecosystems, will allow them to communicate on impacts and economic risks to investors and other key stakeholders.

Performance reporting will provide quantitative data and help discern trends in corporate ecosystems management. The standards, GRI says, will be based on current guidelines for environmental reporting, but may include additional indicators specifically addressing ecosystems impacts.

Indicators suggested by GRI include natural resources harvested, produced, traded and/or consumed; the volume of water consumed; and the cost of climate related disasters.

The most challenging task, the report concludes, is to create organization-wide reporting guidance that focuses on ecosystems instead of relying on general environmental reporting.


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