Standardization of Sustainability Reporting and Metrics

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CHF Collections

See below for a list of the major institutions involved in efforts toward standardization of nonfinancial reporting and the development of sustainability metrics.

 Standardization of Nonfinancial Reporting 

American Petroleum Institute (API)Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

API represents over 400 members involved in all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry, and is based in Washington, D.C. API members pledge to manage their businesses according to a specific set of environmental, health, and safety principles, and to use sound science to prioritize risks and to implement cost-effective management practices. In 2001 a conference was held on Corporate Reporting of EHS and Social Performance so API members and others could share experiences, best practices, and new developments pertaining to (1) the proliferation of surveys and reports on company environmental, social, and economic performance, and (2) a growing emphasis on corporate responsibility and sustainability reporting. The conference was cosponsored by the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) and resulted in a study of sustainability reporting practices and trends, published in 2003. It also resulted in an ongoing effort to provide an online sustainability reporting support tool for the industry. Global Sustainability Reporting Practices and Trends in the Oil and Gas Industry: A Survey is available, published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), and focuses on the results of the study. It also summarizes the report Compendium of Sustainability Reporting Practices and Trends and looks beyond the report to offer a perspective of future reporting issues that face the industry. In 2007 API published the Oil and Gas Industry Guidance on Voluntary Sustainability Reporting.

Association for Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

ACCA is an accountancy body, with 105,000 members in 170 countries, headquartered in London. Its goal is to be the leading global professional accountancy body in size, influence, and reputation. ACCA aims to achieve and promote the highest professional, ethical, and governance standards, and to advance the public interest. One aspect of their corporate strategy is to enhance relationships with employers, governments, and other key stakeholders that will help sustain demand for ACCA-trained professionals. The field of sustainability or nonfinancial reporting is viewed as “a natural” for both their aim and their corporate strategy.

ACCA launched the world’s first environmental reporting award scheme in the 1990s. Since then they have continued to raise awareness of environmental and social reporting among the finance and business communities. ACCA has contributed to the Corporate Social Responsibility debate through its involvement with the Global Sustainability Reporting Initiative, the U.N. UNCTAD environmental accounting program, and the Sustainability Working Party of the European Federation of Accountants. In 2002 they collaborated with UNEP to publish Industry as a partner for sustainable development; Accounting. In 2001, in conjunction with, they published Environmental, Social, and Sustainability reporting on the Internet, A Guide to Best Practice, and in 2004 published Towards Transparency: Progress on Global Sustainability Reporting.

The 2004 publication notes, “There is an increasing adoption of common standards, not least through the GRI Guidelines. . . . Common Standards need to be established in order to achieve reporting credibility and comparability. Non-financial reporting guidance provided by government (in countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the UK) has led to higher quality reports emerging from these countries. This suggests that governments can play an instrumental role in stimulating a culture of reporting and providing national frameworks.”

The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economics (Ceres)

Ceres was formed in 1989 as a partnership between environmental groups and institutional investors. Its Ceres Principles (formerly the Valdez Principles), a 10-point code of corporate environmental conduct, was adopted by numerous companies. In 1997 Ceres launched the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in partnership with UNEP. GRI became an independent international institution in 2002, based in Amsterdam. That same year Ceres and the ACCA started giving out awards for the best sustainability, environmental, or social reporting in North America. The 2006 publication Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection, commissioned by Ceres, is the first comprehensive examination of how 100 of the world’s largest corporations are positioning themselves to compete in a carbon-constrained world.


Context is a consultancy specializing in corporate responsibility (CR) strategy and communications. They write CR and sustainable development reports. A pocket guide, Corporate Responsibility in Context, tells you (nearly) everything you need to know about CR. They also published In Context: Global Corporate Responsibility Reporting Trends 2006, which analyzes the top 100 U.S. companies, top 100 European companies, and top 100 “other” companies. They conclude that the numbers of companies that report continues to grow, but there are still significant differences between regions, particularly between the United States and Europe, with assurance absence in the United States being the major difference. Also, U.S. companies rarely report economic impacts, so their reports are not true sustainability reports, according to GRI. Few of the top 300 companies fully comply with GRI guidelines. is the world’s most comprehensive directory of corporate nonfinancial (environmental/social/sustainability) reports. Established as a free service by the German federal environmental agency (Umweltbundesamt) and London-based Next Step Consulting in 1991, the site aims to provide access to all current reports, as well as develop an archive of global reports published since 1990. The intended audiences are reporting companies and stakeholders. There are currently 2,500 reports documented in the system and about 10, 000 reports in the system. Analyses of these reports show that the largest numbers, almost 800, are from the chemical sector. Oil and gas are third with over 500, and pharmaceuticals and biotechnology are fifteenth with less than 300. From 1992, when there were less than 100 reports published all in hard copy, there was a steady increase until 2004, when over 1,400 were published (less than 200 in hard copy, 700 in dual format, and over 800 in PDF only). U.K. corporations produce the greatest amount of reports, followed by the United States with over 1,000 reports.

CorporateRegister and Environmental Finance (a U.K. monthly magazine) jointly publish an e-mail ReportAlert that notifies report users (e.g., CHF) when new reports are available online and/or hard copies are available from the issuing company. In October 2006 two new registers were launched: the GRI Register and the AA1000AS Register. The GRI Register is in conjunction with the Global Reporting Initiative and provides the official listings of over 1,700 reports compiled using the 2002 GRI Guidelines. This register is searchable using a range of parameters and will be updated for the new G3 guidelines. The AA1000AS Register is in conjunction with AccountAbility and provides the definitive list of over 200 reports assured using the AA1000AS Assurance Standard, one of the most important standards in the field of sustainability reporting. All registers have free access and no log-in is required. In 2008 CR published The Corporate Climate Communications Report 2007, a study of climate change disclosures by the Global FT500. Two-thirds publish CSR reports, and nearly all discuss climate change. Also in 2008 CR published Reporting Awards ’07; Global Winners and Reporting Trends. Bayer, BP, Coca Cola, and Novo Nordisk were among the winners.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), a Swiss Verein

Deloitte is an audit, tax consulting, and financial advisory association of member firms. The Worldwide Members Firms Review for 2005 goes well beyond financial performance and details how Deloitte and its member firms have helped foster sustainable growth and value for capital markets, clients, and stakeholders. In a 2002 survey Deloitte examined sustainability reporting in the pharmaceutical industry—the diagnostics of Corporate Sustainability Reporting. Based on a review of 17 leading companies and by means of the 30 success drivers of the Deloitte Sustainability Reporting Scorecard, the quality of the reports was assessed.

Earth Charter International (ECI)

The Earth Charter was formulated as a declaration of the fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society. It was launched in 2000 at a ceremony at The Hague Peace Palace. Earth Charter International is composed of a network of regional centers and field representatives and a coordinating secretariat governed by the ECI Council, all to support the Earth Charter Initiative. The centers in turn work with a global and diverse association of governmental, civil society, religious, business, and international institutions that are linked to the Initiative as Affiliates, Partners, Endorsers, and Supporters. ECI is funded by diverse sources and is wholly independent. Its mission is to reach out to people of all nations, cultures, religions, and political parties in establishing the Earth Charter as a common reference point for ethics and sustainable development. In January 2008 ECI published a public review draft: The Earth Charter, GRI, and the Global Compact: Guidance to Users on the Synergies in Application and Reporting.

Environment Australia

A Framework for Public Environmental Reporting, An Australian Approach, was published in March 2000 by Environment Australia. It was prepared for publication by a consultancy consortium that included SustainAbility Ltd., UK, IISD, and CERES.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

Ceres was formed in 1989 as a partnership between environmental groups and institutional investors. The Ceres Principles (formerly the Valdez Principles), a 10-point code of corporate environmental conduct, were adopted by numerous companies. In 1997 Ceres launched the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in partnership with UNEP. GRI became an independent international institution in 2002, based in Amsterdam. That same year Ceres and the ACCA started giving out awards for the best sustainability, environmental, or social reporting in North America.

The Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guideline, first released in draft form in 1999, was the first international standard for corporate reporting of the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental performance. In 2003 Ceres and the Tellus Institute launched the Facility Reporting Project (FRP) as a multi-stakeholder effort to develop consistent, comparable, and credible sustainability reporting guidance for individual facilities in the United States. In January 2006 Draft G3 of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines was released for public comment. Most changes were aimed at increasing user-friendliness of the guidelines and increasing the comparability of reports. In October 2006 G3 was launched at a GRI Global Conference on Reporting: A Measure of Sustainability.

The May 2008 Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency concluded that reports are taken seriously, that they should reflect both positive and negative aspects, and that they should contain long-term sustainability strategies. Assurance should be driven by principles and not just accuracy of data. GRI and IFC published Embedding Gender in Sustainability Reporting, a Practitioner’s Guide in 2009. Also in 2009 GRI released a report examining how companies can frame their ESG disclosures to meet the needs of mainstream investors: Reaching Investors: Communicating Value through ESG Disclosure. At the 2009 BSR conference GRI advocated that G-20 should mandate both global financial and ESG reporting standards providers to work together to develop a global framework for Integrated Reporting.

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC): Business Charter for Sustainable Development

ICC is a world business organization leader in setting voluntary rules, standards, and codes for the conduct of international trade that are accepted for all business sectors. The ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development, developed 1989 to 1991, has 16 key principles for environmental management, setting the environmental agenda for business and industry during the 1990s. The 16th principle, Compliance and Reporting, is as follows: To measure environmental performance; to conduct regular environmental audits and assessments of compliance with company requirements, legal requirements and these (other 15) principles; and periodically to provide appropriate information to the Board of Directors, shareholders, employees, the authorities, and the public.

International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)

IFAC is the global organization for the accountancy profession, with 163 member organizations in 119 countries. ACCA and AICPA are both members. In 2005 IFAC issued the “International Guidance Document on Environmental Management Accounting (EMA).” The goal of this document is to reduce international confusion on this topic by providing a framework and set of definitions for EMA that is comprehensive yet is as consistent as possible with other existing, widely used environmental accounting frameworks with which EMA must coexist.

In 2004 their International Auditing and Assurance Board (IAASB) approved a revised Assurance Framework and a new International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000, Assurance Engagements Other Than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information. The Framework, which was effective in 2005, defines and describes elements and objectives of an assurance engagement and identifies engagements to which ISAEs apply, e.g., environmental, social, and sustainability reports. In 2006 IFAC issued a consultation paper that explores issues in the GRI’s 2006 Draft Sustainability Reporting Guidelines that specifically relate to assurance reporting.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies that works through technical committees to prepare international standards. ISO 14001:2004 is an environmental management system standard with requirements and guidance for use; ISO 14031 is an environmental performance evaluation standard that gives guidance on the design and use of environmental performance evaluation within an organization. It does not establish environmental performance levels and is not intended for use as a specification standard for certification. It provides no standards for reporting environmental performance.

ISO Technical Committee 207, which is responsible for the development of the ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards, formed Working Group 4 (WG 4) in 2001 to develop a guidance standard on environmental communication. The environmental communications guidance standard will help an organization work through the process of developing an environmental communication by describing a set of principles for each stage of the communications process and linking to specific examples that illustrate the principles. The standard will neither prescribe the manner in which an organization communicates its environmental information nor tell an organization what it should communicate.

In June 2004 ISO held a Conference on Social Responsibility Standardization. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) evolved during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which focused on a set of issues broader than environmental management, including poverty reduction and social development. The ISO Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) on Corporate Social Responsibility was formed, with a mandate to discuss and advise ISO Council on whether ISO should develop standards on CSR, what the scope of the work should be, and the kind of deliverables ISO should develop. IISD is a member of this group and has engaged five leading NGOs to partner with them: the International Institute for Environment and Development (U.K.); the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (Switzerland); Development Alternatives (India); Recursos e Investigacion para el Desarrollo Sustentable (Chile); and the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (South Africa). Other members of the SAG are: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); U.K. Department for International Development (DFID); and Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). On-line discussions on the CSR standards work are open to anyone interested.

International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA)International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP)

IPECA, established in 1974, is a voluntary nonprofit organization whose membership includes both petroleum companies and associations at the national, regional, and international levels. IPECA holds formal U.N. status and represents the views of its members in public forums and provides an interface between the petroleum industry and the United Nations agencies. Two publications of the Joint IPECA/API Corporate Reporting Task Force are Compendium of Sustainability Reporting Practices and Trends for the Oil and Gas Industry, 2003 and Oil and Gas Industry Guidance on Voluntary Sustainability Reporting Using Environmental, Health & Safety, Social and Economic Performance Indicators, 2005. In 2005 IPIECA and OGP (International Association of Oil and Gas Producers) hosted a Corporate and Industry Sustainability Reporting Workshop. The workshop’s purpose was to launch the Guidance on Voluntary Sustainability Reporting, learn from other industry sectors, and obtain feedback. The summary report is available.

OGP was formed in 1974 to develop effective communications between the upstream industry and international regulators. It has accreditation with the United Nations and is recognized by the E.U. Commission. Principles for impact assessment include the environmental and social dimension, published in 1997, which is available through CHF. Social and environmental assessment (SEA) can be beneficial to project schedules and costs by increasing public support, anticipating problems, and aiding in regulatory compliance, and is considered an element of responsible environmental management both within and external to the industry.

The Institute for Social and Ethical AccountAbility

Established in 1995, AccountAbility is an international nonprofit institute that brings together members and partners from business, civil society, and the public sector to promote accountability for sustainable development. They have developed innovative and effective tools and standards, most notably, the AA1000 Framework for Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing, and Reporting. The framework is designed to improve accountability and performance by learning through stakeholder engagement. It was developed in 1999 to address the need for organizations to integrate their stakeholder engagement processes into daily activities and is designed to complement the GRI Reporting Guidelines. The stakeholder engagement process generates the indicators, targets, and reporting systems needed to ensure its effectiveness in overall organizational performance. The AA1000 Series builds on the framework, adding a series of specialized modules for accountability practitioners, as well as supporting documents. In September 2005 the first draft of the first international standard for stakeholder engagement was launched, AA1000SES. It has been heralded by Dow Chemical, among others, as “an important next step in our journey towards rewarding, value added engagements for all stakeholders.” 

AccountAbility Rating is published annually in Fortune International Magazine and measures how the world’s 100 biggest companies build responsible practices into the way they do business. The 2007 rating was widened to reflect companies’ actual social and environmental performance as well as their strategy and processes. Two publications, A21: Development as Accountability, and A21: Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century, are available, as well as AccountAbility Accounts 2007, their annual report. In association with UNEP, National Competitiveness in a Low-Carbon Future: The State of Responsible Competitiveness 2008/9 was published, and includes a Responsible Competitiveness Index (RCI) for countries. Responsible Competitiveness in the Arab World was published in 2009.

KPMG International (a Swiss cooperative)

KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax, and advisory services. With UNEP, KPMG published Carrots and Sticks for Starters: Current Trends and Approaches in Voluntary and Mandatory Standards for Sustainability Reporting. The report was presented in October 2006 at the G3 Conference and argued that balanced regulation should highlight the importance of a publicly recognized set of performance indicators, of which the GRI provides a global reference framework. It also stressed the need for independent verification, stakeholder engagement, and the role of government in enforcing a level playing field and introducing incentives, such as relieving reporting companies from obligations to report separately to individual government departments.

The 2005 KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility (CR) Reporting, the fifth in a triennial series, was published in June 2005. Major survey findings show that CR reporting has been steadily rising since 1993, and it has increased substantially in the past three years. A dramatic change has been in the type of reporting, which has changed from purely environmental reporting up until 1999 to sustainability (social, environmental, and economic) reporting. Although the majority of companies in most countries still issue separate CR reports, there has been an increase in the number of companies publishing CR information as part of their annual reports. Japan and the United Kingdom lead in separate CR reporting. At a global level the typical industrial sectors with relatively high environmental impact continue to lead in reporting, with more than 80% of companies reporting in the electronics and computers, utilities, automotive, and oil and gas sectors. At a national level over 50 % of companies are reporting in the utilities, mining, chemical and synthetics, oil and gas, forestry, pulp, and paper sectors.

PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd.(PWC)

PWC provides industry-focused assurance, as well as advisory and tax services for public, private, and government clients. Their global Sustainable Business Solutions team comprises more than 300 business advisors in over 30 countries. They help clients improve their business performance and create long-term shareholder value by developing strategy, performance management, and reporting solutions. PWC’s 2004 Best Practice Guide for Sustainability Reporting, Nothing but the Truth, updates their 2001 Guide and provides examples of best practices in the area of sustainability reporting from companies in the energy, mining, chemicals and forestry, and paper-products sectors. In 2007 PWC also published their 10th Annual Global CEO Survey, with the theme “balancing the global equation.”

Public Environmental Reporting Initiative (PERI)

In 1993 the Public Environmental Reporting Initiative was established by a group of nine North American companies. This voluntary industry initiative produced guidelines to encourage corporations to initiate, expand, and/or improve their environmental reporting. Although a web search uncovered corporations who state, e.g., this report follows PERI Guidelines, no website was identified. Woodhead Publishing’s Environmental reporting guidelines in current practices in environmental reporting, 2001, state that the founding companies were Amoco, British Petroleum, Dow Chemical, DuPont, IBM, Nortel, Phillips Petroleum, Polaroid, Rockwell, and United Technologies. They also state that the details can be found on the IBM website, but this no longer appears to be true. In fact, the 2004–5 IBM Corporate Responsibility Report references the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, which appear to have replaced PERI.

Scientific Institute for Environmental Management (WIMM) at the University of Amsterdam

Since its establishment in 1991, WIMM has focused on integration of environmental (sustainable) management into business administration. In 1999 WIMM and KPMG Environmental Consulting, The Netherlands, published the KPMG International Survey of Environmental Reporting. Another was published by John Wiley & Sons in 2002, Trends in Sustainability Reporting by the Fortune Global 250, written by Ans Kolk, professor of sustainable management at the University of Amsterdam. In 2004 Kolk published A Decade of Sustainability Reporting: Developments and Significance, also in our files.

Stratos, Inc.

Stratos—strategies to sustainability—is a Canadian consultancy that helps business, government, and international institutions design, implement, evaluate, and report on strategies for sustainability. They published Corporate Sustainability Reporting in Canada: A 2002 Update. Key messages are that the number of Canadian sustainability reporters is growing (almost all sectors demonstrate an increase), web-based electronic reporting is growing in popularity as a preferred medium, more companies are having their reports independently verified, and the Global Reporting Initiative is influencing reporting practices. However, many companies are not reporting environmental liabilities and contingencies in their environmental reports, raising questions about risk and corporate transparency.

In the conclusion it is noted that companies are facing multiple reporting pressures—responding to disclosure requirements in regulations, meeting the reporting criteria of sector-initiated voluntary programs, and responding to the requests of various investment rating groups and other stakeholders. There is an emerging need for consolidation, both along the lines of accepted national or international reporting standards and through mutual recognition among different demanders of corporate information.


SustainAbility is a strategy consultancy and independent think tank specializing in the business risks and market opportunities of corporate responsibility and sustainable development. Founded in 1987, they coined the terms “green consumer” and “triple bottom line” to describe new types of markets and innovative business approaches that would be needed to achieve success. In 1994 they launched their first benchmark survey of company reporting with UNEP and established the Engaging Stakeholders corporate membership program. In 2000 the first Global Reporters benchmark survey was published that reported on best practices in corporate responsibility reporting (excerpts available). These reports are updated biannually.

The Global Reporters is a joint effort of SustainAbility, UNEP, and since 2004, Standard and Poor’s (a credit rating agency). According to The Economist the report is based on a list of requests for information that companies can choose to answer if they wish. From this survey and the previous year’s nonfinancial reports, a company ranking is provided. However, both the survey and company reports on environmental and corporate social policy contain nonmeasurable items that do not lend themselves to a reliable audit. The lack of uniform and measurable standards results in an “assurance statement,” the only audit performed.

In 2006 Tomorrow’s Value, SustainAbility’s fourth international benchmark of corporate sustainability reporting, was once again developed with UNEP and Standard & Poor’s. A revised methodology was introduced, developed in close consultation with experts and leading corporate reporters, and a portfolio approach was adopted. Tomorrow’s Value is the flagship document in a suite of publications exploring wider aspects of reporting, such as communication with financial analysts and the wider innovation agenda. The document concludes that the links between the evolving sustainability agenda and wider market opportunities are now better understood. Also, some parts of the financial community are gearing up their use of nonfinancial, extra-financial, and/or sustainability disclosures to better understand emerging environmental, social, and governance risks. However, the expert panel concluded that most companies are still missing an important opportunity to communicate with financial analysts and institutions. SustainAbility, working with Stratos, a Canadian sustainability consultancy formed in 2000, published Stepping Forward, Corporate Sustainability Reporting in Canada in 2001. The survey assesses the quality and comprehensiveness of sustainability information provided in 35 Canadian corporate reports.

The Sustainability Reporting Program (Canada)

The Sustainability Reporting Program is a Canadian independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that draws on expertise from government, industry, the nongovernment sector, and academe, but does not represent any sector or interest group. It produces the online Sustainability Report as follow-up to the 1997 book, Canada and the State of the Planet. The business section of the report looks at the state of corporate environment and sustainability reporting and the improvement of corporate reporting. After reviewing the reports of 20 global companies who write such reports, it was concluded that “no company is currently producing a true sustainability report,” which differs from an environmental or EHS report. A true sustainability report would present “a holistic picture of company activities and provide a balanced view of benefits and trade-offs among social, economic, and environmental impacts.” None of the 20 reports link all three dimensions and only a few mentions a relationship between environmental and economic activities.

In addition, it is noted that “in spite of efforts from bodies such as OECD and GRI to push for standard reporting formats, no two sustainability and EHS reports are the same.” Three report templates for best practice reporting are presented, each aiming for a different main objective. A: Creating a positive impression for public/stockholder relations; B: The business case for sustainable development; and C: Standardized reporting.  In 2002 the Sustainability Reporting Program collaborated with others to organize Learning Circles on Corporate Environment and Sustainability Reporting. They were sponsored by Environment Canada and other Canadian government agencies. The Sustainability Report also contains a 17-page “Environment and Sustainability Chronology” and links to an educational website containing an “Environmental History Timeline” and the InterEnvironment website containing “Landmark Events in Protecting the Global Environment 1945–Present.” The International Corporate Sustainability Reporting Site

Additional links:

In 1997 Van der Molen Environmental Internet Services in the Netherlands developed the first comprehensive corporate environmental reporting site. With the advent of nonfinancial or sustainability reporting, the site was restyled and renamed in October 2005. It provides a portal to international reports and specific portals for German, Swiss, Japanese, Netherlands, Australian, and Hungarian reports, and for U.S. reports through CCInet. CCInet is the corporate community investment site of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). There are 405 companies listed (e.g., DuPont), and a search takes you directly to the company’s site to read or obtain reports, etc. The newsletter notes that in 2006, German companies were to disclose material nonfinancial sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs) for the first time in their financial reports covering 2005.

Woodhead Publishing Limited

Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, England, published a major series of surveys reviewing the state of environmental reporting in a number of key industry sectors worldwide. The second in the series Current Practice in Environmental Reporting: The Chemicals Industry was published in July 2001. It brings together and analyzes the corporate environmental reports of the leading international chemical companies, using a comprehensive set of environmental performance indicators. A copy of the 406-page document was borrowed from the British Library.

The editors concluded that lack of comparability is the single biggest issue that needs to be addressed. They believe that the progress and quality of environmental and sustainability reporting will be determined by three key factors: availability of universal standards, application of new information technology, and introduction of triple bottom line reporting. They are hopeful that the CERES Global Reporting Initiative will become a universal standard and believe that websites will be the future for offering environmental information. Lastly, they note that for companies wishing to project a strong environmental image, the ultimate objective is to move to the triple bottom line reporting concept.

The UNEP definition for this is “reporting on indicators of progress in the linked areas of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity.”  The editors noted that a 1999 UNEP survey showed that the most significant obstacle cited to advancing integration of environmental dimensions into credit and investment analysis was the translation of environmental impacts into financial implications. They believe this is the challenge for corporate environmental reports.

 Development of Sustainability Metrics 

American Chemistry Council (ACC)

ACC, formerly the U.S. Chemical Manufacturers Association, was the first to adopt CCPA’s Responsible Care® program in 1988. Although it is a voluntary program, ACC has made adopting it a requirement for membership in the U.S. chemical industry organization. Responsible Care® seeks to achieve improvements in environmental, health, and safety performance beyond levels required by the U.S. government, and has resulted in significant reductions in releases to air, land, and water; major improvements in workplace and community safety; and expanded programs to research and test chemicals for potential health and environmental impacts.

New program enhancements include tracking and publicly reporting performance based on economic, environmental, health and safety, societal, and product-related metrics. A limited set of 11 uniform industry-wide metrics has been established, through Responsible Care®, to measure individual company and industry performance. The measures will enable member companies to identify areas for continuous improvement and provide a means for the public to track individual company and industry performance in an accessible and transparent way. Public reporting began in 2004/5 and companies had to complete third-party certification that a Responsible Care® Management System would be in place by 2007. A copy of the Performance Measurement Guidance Document is available. A different set of metrics for supply chain is being established. No agreement was reached on the definition of sustainability, and the word is not used in any Responsible Care® publications.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (New York) is a professional organization founded in 1908 that represents more than 40,000 chemical engineers. AIChE has formed the Institute for Sustainability (IfS) to promote the societal, economic, and environmental benefits of sustainable and green engineering. The Institute is comprised of three Centers to reflect its major thrusts: 1) The Center for Waste Reduction Technologies (CWRT) is an industry-led consortium of 30 sponsors, largely from the manufacturing sector, which range from chemicals to pharmaceuticals to building materials and appliances. It is focused on the development of technologies and management tools supporting sustainable growth, environmental stewardship, and Responsible Care®; 2) The Center for Environmental Excellence is a resource center for practicing engineers, and develops training programs and workshops supporting energy efficiency and sustainable practices; and 3) The Center for Social Stewardship and Education develops products and services society needs to be more sustainable, with emphasis on using engineering expertise to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged populations.

Divisions and forums are also part of AIChE’s structure, e.g. the Sustainable Engineering Forum (SEF) for achieving sustainable development with chemical engineering (including using appropriate metrics for sustainability) (Also see BRIDGES below). In 2007 AIChE introduced the Sustainability Index, which assesses the sustainability of the chemical industry along factors specific to the industry. The publication will be silent on individual ratings, but companies can benchmark themselves relative to the set of companies.

BRIDGES to Sustainability™ Institute (Houston)

BRIDGES is an educational nonprofit organization formed in 1988 to foster the implementation of sustainable development through innovative partnership, education, and leadership development.  In 2005 it was acquired by Goldner Associates, Inc. BRIDGES has developed BRIDGEworks™ Metrics software, an automated metrics management tool, to simplify the development and calculation of sustainability metrics. Sustainability metrics that are applicable across industry provide decision makers with simple yardsticks to calibrate how well their company is doing and to compare alternatives from sustainability perspectives.

BRIDGES has participated since 2005 with the sustainability metrics task forces of both the Business Roundtable and GEMI to assist in defining metrics development efforts.  The following publications/presentations are available: Automating the Sustainability Metrics Approach, AIChE, 2004; BRIDGEworks™: An Integrated Approach to Sustainability Indicators and Metrics, 2003; Sustainability Metrics, 2003; Are We Talking the Talk or Walking the Talk, 2003; Use Sustainability Metrics to Guide Decision-Making, (AIChE) 2002; Usable Sustainability Metrics for Industry, (AIChE) 2001. U.S. Patent 20050015287 was issued 1/20/2005 to Earl R. Beaver on means for incorporating sustainability metrics and total cost and benefit analysis in decision-making. A novel method composed of a combination of software and business management methods allows the computation of five basic metrics for material, water, energy and land use, and toxics and overall pollutants emitted.

Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI)

DJSI are based on the world’s first systematic methodology to identify the leading sustainability-driven companies on a global basis. They reflect the combined resources of three partners: Dow Jones Indexes, the leading European Index provider STOXX Limited, and the international pioneer in sustainability investing, SAM Group. The selection of Index components follows a rules-based process based on a thorough assessment of general and industry-specific sustainability criteria, and verified by an external auditor. The SAM questionnaire is the major source of information and external verification by PriceWaterhouseCoopers ensures that assessments are completed in accordance with the rules. Launch of the Dow Jones Sustainability North America and Dow Jones Sustainability United States Indexes were also announced, effective September 2005.

European School of Management and Technology (esmt)

The European School of Management and Technology in Berlin is Europe’s new center for international executive education. It’s Center for Responsible Leadership and Sustainable Futures (CRLFS) is a research initiative devoted to the challenges of achieving long-term sustainable business performance. The Working Paper Series on Responsible Leadership and Sustainability published Metrics for Sustainable Corporate Performance in 2005.

The conclusion reported is that while most companies studied are using the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, this needs to be improved and refined. Many companies are also using the U.N. Global Compact Initiative, but this seems to be more of an exercise in improving the image of companies rather than an undertaking with strong and visionary leadership designed to promote the serious internal structural changes that companies require to become more sustainable. There is a need to establish clear and user-friendly methodologies and tools to measure the progress that companies are making toward sustainability.

FTSE4Good Index Series

FTSE is an independent company created in 1995 and owned by the Financial Times and the London Stock Exchange. They create and manage indices and associated data services on an international scale. FTSE has partnered with Dow Jones Indexes to form a single industrial classification system for global investors, Guide to Calculation Methods for the FTSE Global Equity Index Series.

The FTSE4Good Index Series has been designed to measure the performance of companies that meet globally recognized corporate responsibility standards and to facilitate investment in those companies. Criteria were designed to help investors minimize social, environmental, and ethical risks. The series was started in 2001 and the inclusion criteria are revised regularly to remain consistent with market expectations and developments in corporate social responsibility practice. The Responsible Investment Unit at FTSE meets with companies affected by the changing criteria to help them understand changes they may need to make and why they must do so to meet the index’s evolving corporate responsibility standards. The publications FTSE4Good Index Series Inclusion Criteria and Rewarding Virtue: Effective Board Action on Corporate Responsibility are available.

The Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI)

GEMI is a nonprofit organization of 42 leading companies dedicated to fostering environmental, health, and safety excellence worldwide through the sharing of tools and information in order for businesses to help business achieve environmental excellence. GEMI includes 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Ashland, Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Dow, Eastman Kodak, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Occidental Petroleum, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, Roche, Shering-Plough and Wyeth among its members, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Publications include Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) Environmental Self Assessment Program (ESAP), 1994; ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Self-Assessment Checklist, 1996; Environmental Reporting and Third Party Statements, 1996; Measuring Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use, 1998; Exploring Pathways to a Sustainable Enterprise, User Guide, 2002; and Clear Advantage: Building Shareholder Value, 2004.

In April 2007 the GEMI Metrics Navigator™ was released. It is a tool to help organizations develop and implement metrics (nonfinancial measurements) that provide insight into complex issues, support business strategy, and contribute to business success. An elaborated version is available at

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

IChemE is the professional body for chemical and process engineers. Founded in the United Kingdom in 1922, it has an international membership of 26,000 across 80 countries. There are 17 project groups who aim to provide a network for exchange of ideas and information, including one on sustainability. In 2002 The Sustainability Metrics was published. It includes a set of indicators that can be used to measure the sustainability performance of an operating unit and help engineers address the issue of sustainable development. The indicators will also enable companies to set targets and develop standards for internal benchmarking, and to monitor progress from year to year.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (Canada) (iisd)

Additional links:

IISD is a nonprofit in the business of promoting change toward sustainable development. Founded in 1990, IISD engages decision makers in government, business, NGOs, and other sectors to develop and implement policies that are simultaneously beneficial to the global economy and environment, as well as to social well-being. Their Compendium of Sustainable Development Indicator Initiatives, an active worldwide directory of who is doing what, was developed with Environment Canada, Redefining Progress, the World Bank, and UNEP.

IISD hosts the SD Gateway, which integrates the online information developed by members of the Sustainable Development Communication Networks (SCDN), a group of civil society organizations (NGOs). In addition, in conjunction with Global Responsibility International, an independent subsidiary of the Swedish financial services group Scandia, IISD maintain a website—Business and Sustainable Development: A Global Guide. Selected sources from this Information Center are available.

IISD also serves as the secretariat for the Consultative Group on Sustainable Development (CGSDI or CG), which was initiated in 1996 by the Wallace Global Fund due to the growing need to harmonize international work on indicators and to focus on the challenge of creating a single sustainability index. In 1998 the CG settled on a conceptual framework for developing an aggregated index of sustainability and a supporting information system, known as the Compass of Sustainability. Then they focused on connecting their work with the indicator initiative of the Bellagio Forum for Sustainable Development. An instrument panel metaphor, the Dashboard of Sustainability model was developed, which has gained international recognition. The basic principle of the Dashboard presentation is that the policy performance for any issue can be characterized through (1) importance (reflected by the size of the segments) and (2) performance (good vs. bad, expressed on a green-to-red color scale). The current methodology used for the Dashboard software tool is based on aggregation (how do we arrive at the color in the middle?), weighting (how important is this indicator?) and performance valuation (what is our benchmark score for this indicator?). What are currently needed to improve the CGSDI Dashboard are better indicators (internationally agreed upon), institution(s) to update the indicators and further develop the aggregation and communication functionality, and users to test and peer review.

IISD is one of the few NGOs preparing Sustainable Development Reports following the GRI guidelines and has issued reports the last five years. They are also operating as a carbon-neutral organization, completely offsetting emissions from any source by purchasing an equal amount of wind energy. The Sustainable Development Timeline, 4th edition (1962–2005) poster* is available, as well as Proposals for a Way Forward, a report on Sustainable Development Indicators prepared for the UN-DSD, December 2005. IISD concludes that use should be made of the United Nations System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounts (SEEA).

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) 

NAS is an honorific society composed of over 2,000 scholars and 350 non–U.S. associates engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. The NAS was signed into being by President Lincoln in 1863 and serves to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. Most of the work is conducted by the National Research Council (NRC), founded in 1916 for that purpose.

A Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) has been established, and the first two projects include the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability. The Board of Chemical Sciences and Technology (BCST), together with NRC, established the Chemical Sciences Roundtable, which published in 2004 Water and Sustainable Development: Opportunities for the Chemical Sciences. Sustainability in the Chemical Industry-Grand Challenges and Research Needs was published in 2006, and the study is based on a workshop held February 2005.

In 1997 the NRC published Fostering Industry-Initiated Environmental Protection Efforts, in which they note that uniform metrics are generally not available to measure progress or effectiveness of most industry-initiated programs objectively. However, this doesn’t lessen their benefits and, in addition, most regulatory programs also lack rigorous ways to measure environmental effectiveness or benefits. A system for public reporting of environmental performance data by industry would provide all the stakeholders with information sufficient to draw conclusions on the overall effectiveness of an activity or program. They note that no one criterion can accommodate the broad diversity of programs and types of industrial activities, and government agencies should strive to make regulatory compliance strategies flexible and adaptable to opportunities for improvement.

In 1999 the Board on Sustainable Development published Our Common Journey: A Transition toward Sustainability (an Executive Summary is available). Also in 1999 an NAS Committee published Industrial Environmental Performance Metrics: Challenges and Opportunities. The report by the NCR and National Academy of Engineering Committee is a corporate-focused analysis that examines implications arising from greater demand for comparability of metrics among businesses by the investment community and environmental interest groups. It contains goals and recommendations for public and private-sector players interested in encouraging the broader use of metrics to improve industrial environmental performance. On page 208, Goal 3: Improve the Comparability or Standardization of Metrics, contains two recommendations. Recommendation 5: The U.S. government should facilitate a process of establishing consistent, standardized industrial environmental metrics through the involvement of experts from industry, NGOs, and federal agencies. Recommendation 6: The U.S. government should promote standardized industrial environmental performance metrics in international forums.

Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College

Students and faculty of the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College in California have been studying corporate sustainability reports. Their methods and ongoing results are presented in graphical form, in published sector reports, and as a book. The reports are analyzed using the Pacific Sustainability Index. Scores for reporting reflect on presentation of data on specific indicators, not on the quality of performance. They indicate transparency in reporting independent of success in making improvements. The list of companies studied and their reports, 10/02 to 12/06 and the 2005 scores for the chemicals sector are available. BASF led the sector. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories led the pharmaceuticals sector. The book, Clean, Green and Read All Over: Ten Rules for Effective Corporate Environmental and Sustainability Reporting by J. Emil Morhardt, published by the American Society for Quality, is available.

In 2008 the Center announced the publication of six new 2007 industrial-sector reports based on its Pacific Sustainability Index. The chemicals sector was lead by Bayer and Akzo Nobel, while Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis led the pharmaceuticals sector. In 2002 a paper, Scoring Corporate Environmental and Sustainability Reports Using GRI 2000, ISO 14031 and Other Criteria, was published in Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management (9, 215–213).

Standard & Poor’s (S&P)

S&P is a leading provider of financial market intelligence, credit ratings, indices, investment research, risk evaluation, and data. It was begun in 1906 and became a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill in 1966. Sustainability indices include the ING Socially Responsible Investments Index, the SGI Global Carbon Index, the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) India Index, and the S&P-Hawkaman ESG MENA (Middle East and North Africa) indices.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

UNCTAD serves as the focal point within the U.N. Secretariat for all matters related to foreign direct investment and transnational corporations. Through the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR), UNCTAD has been working on corporate environmental accounting since 1989. In 2004 they released a new guideline on eco-efficiency indicators. The Manual for the Preparers and Users of Eco-Efficiency Indicators is one of the first publications to standardize the presentation and disclosure of a company’s environmental performance and how this relates to financial results. It describes a method for providing systematic and consistent information on environmental performance over time, and uses financial and environmental performance indicators together to measure a company’s progress in attaining eco-efficiency or sustainability. The guideline defines five environmental performance indicators: (1) water use, (2) energy requirement, (3) global warming contribution, (4) ozone-depleting contribution, and (5) waste.