Does GRI Reporting Impact Environmental Sustainability? An Industry-Specific Analysis of CO2 Emissions Performance between Reporting and Non-Reporting Companies

  •  Sneha Bernard    
  •  Samih Abdelgadir    
  •  Lotfi Belkhir    


The stated goal of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting framework is two-fold: to make it easier for organizations to communicate their sustainability performance to stakeholders, and to drive companies to become more sustainable. Our aim in this paper is to assess if GRI-reporting has any direct and positive impact on sustainability performance, and more specifically on CO2 emissions of the reporting companies. This study is the first that attempts to answer this question in a quantitative and systematic manner. We analyze the CO2 emissions data from 40 A-level GRI-reporting companies, over a period of six years and across five industry sectors, comparing them with a control group of 24 non-reporting companies, to assess any direct impact of reporting on emissions. We perform an industry-specific analysis of the CO2 emissions of both reporting and non-reporting companies for each industry sector. We find that amongst all reporting companies and industries, only the Utilities industry exhibits a dramatic decrease in emission intensity between 2007-2012, while the others show only minimal reductions, while the overall absolute emissions levels have grown significantly for both sets of companies. On the more qualitative side, we also note, based on our own experience in undertaking this study, that the GRI reports are not conducive to providing stakeholders with a coherent, user-friendly or transparent structure of a company’s sustainability performance in general, or improvement thereof, concluding that neither of the GRI stated goals are currently attained. Finally, we provide constructive recommendations on how the GRI reporting process could better achieve its stated purpose. Academics, investors and analysts alike might find the review, the analysis as well as the recommendations of this paper useful, as they directly address the core objectives of the GRI reporting process and how it could be improved to have the desirable impact.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.