Companies ‘cherry-picking’ sustainable reporting standards

A “huge variation” in sustainable reporting standards worldwide has rendered meaningful comparisons “impossible” according to an international study, which warns that companies may be cherry-picking measures that make them look good.

Analysis of almost 800 firms by researchers at the University of Auckland found that none use all of the 91 sustainability indicators published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The companies studied had instead chosen to report between one and 40 of the standards, with reducing greenhouse gas emissions one of the indicators most commonly overlooked.

Oceania and Africa reported the lowest regional average of just 20 measures, with the researchers warning that firms are choosing standards that are least difficult to report, or easiest to turn into positive messages.

They are now calling for minimum sustainability reporting requirements, similar to those used in financial reporting, which provide an accurate and comparable picture of how companies perform across the sustainability spectrum.


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