What is Sustainability Reporting?

A sustainability report is a report published by a company or organization about the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by its everyday activities. A sustainability report also presents the organization's values and governance model, and demonstrates the link between its strategy and its commitment to a sustainable global economy.

Sustainability reporting can help organizations to measure, understand and communicate their economic, environmental, social and governance performance, and then set goals, and manage change more effectively. A sustainability report is the key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts – whether positive or negative. 

Sustainability reporting can be considered as synonymous with other terms for non-financial reporting; triple bottom line reporting, corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting, and more. It is also an intrinsic element of integrated reporting; a more recent development that combines the analysis of financial and non-financial performance.

Importance of Trust

​Building and maintaining trust in businesses and governments is fundamental to achieving a sustainable economy and world. Every day, decisions are made by businesses and governments which have direct impacts on their stakeholders, such as financial institutions, labor organizations, civil society and citizens, and the level of trust they have with them. These decisions are rarely based on financial information alone. They are based on an assessment of risk and opportunity using information on a wide variety of immediate and future issues.

The value of the sustainability reporting process is that it ensures organizations consider their impacts on these sustainability issues, and enables them to be transparent about the risks and opportunities they face. Stakeholders also play a crucial role in identifying these risks and opportunities for organizations, particularly those that are non-financial. This increased transparency leads to better decision making, which helps build and maintain trust in businesses and governments.

Who should Report?

Sustainability reports are released by companies and organizations of all types, sizes and sectors, from every corner of the world. 

Thousands of companies across all sectors have published reports that reference GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. Public authorities and non-profits are also big reporters. GRI’s 
Sustainability Disclosure Database features all known GRI-based reports. 

Major providers of sustainability reporting guidance include:

  • GRI (GRI's Sustainability Reporting Standards)
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises)
  • The United Nations Global Compact (the Communication on Progress)
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO 26000, International Standard for social responsibility)