Global Reporting Initiative CEO, Tim Mohin. Source: GRI
Who said this?
“In essence, when we measure too much, we can lose the signal in the noise. One good example of this is the Global Reporting Initiative…
… reporting on a dizzying array of topics can obscure important issues by overemphasizing the merely interesting… The issue, rather, is whether we are reaping enough of a return on our investment in corporate sustainability reporting….
…Not only are these reports a lot of work, but their complexity makes them inaccessible to most people…
… Now that sustainability reporting is commonplace, perhaps we can re-think our approach to get more value from our investment in transparency…”
Yes, you’ve guessed it. Those fine words are from Tim Mohin, the brand new CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), writing in the Guardian in September, 2014 when he worked for chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Tim will probably take issue with my selective editing. But unless he goes native at GRI Tower, Mohin is the best news ever for the Amsterdam-based sustainability reporting standard setter.
After the launch of its overly complex G4 guidelines the organisation was well on its way to becoming an irrelevancy, abetted by the attitude of its then leadership which was bureaucratic arrogance personified.
The organisation’s sad state was further damaged by its interpretation of the multi-stakeholder processes, which appeared to give minor stakeholders the same priority as the really significant one – business.
That meant the central stakeholder – business – was given as much importance as a minor labour union in Papua New Guinea.
Things had begun to improve with the recent launch of the GRI’s standards, combined with a more humble attitude from officials. Much of the credit for the clean-up must go to the interim CEO Eric Hespenheide whose business-savvy attitude not only helped unscramble the GRI’s previously muddled thinking but, more important, punctured its puffed-up attitude.
Mohin must continue the clean-up and he certainly has the right qualifications for the job. He has spent time as a regulator – with the US EPA and the US Senate – so knows all about committee hoo-ha. But more important, after working for Apple, Intel and AMD he gets the business of business. He will understand that the most important customer for GRI is, indeed, business. Given that reporting (of the GRI type) is purely voluntary, you need companies to participate if the standards are to succeed.
Without customers there won’t be any reporting – no matter how much noise the multi-stakeholders make. And those customers – as Mohin rightly pointed out in 2014 – must get a return on their reporting investments. If the GRI is to remain relevant, it has to help its customers achieve their business aims.
That’s why Mohin’s thoughts from over two years ago are so relevant and inspiring today. The fox is finally in the henhouse. Whoopee! Let’s hope there will be many GRI feathers flying in 2017 and beyond.