"Current forms of [measurement and] reporting can verge on the meaningless as they are both too simple and devoid of context."
Rob Gray and Markus Milne, 2004
Feb 13-14, 2014 in Burlington, VT
Bill Baue, socialfunds.com
Photo of Denali Peak taken on site by Liza McElroy - Website Design and Logo Designs by Svend Design
One of the more promising indicators of human well-being is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Unlike GDP, GPI adjusts for ignored and miscounted costs (e.g., costs of pollution) and also adds in the value of activities otherwise missing from GDP (e.g., housework). In 2012, we (CSO) put forward a proposal to help develop a means of determining what a company’s contributions to GPI are, just as has long been possible with GDP. Happily, that project is now taking flight!
CSO and Climate Counts are pleased to announce the results of their joint study in which CSO’s context-based carbon metric was used to assess the GHG emissions of 100 global companies relative to science-based goals. The dramatic results show that decoupling growth from environmental impacts is not only possible, but also a key strategy for driving positive sustainability performance. See here for the results, and here for a press release.
In a recent study, we compared one company’s greenhouse gas emissions over a 6-year period using conventional (absolute and relative) metrics on the one hand, and context-based metrics on the other. Amongst our findings was that conventional metrics very often send precisely the wrong signals when it comes to understanding the true sustainability performance of a company. Context-based metrics are much more reliable.
There is a growing consensus, we think, that the time for context-based sustainability in corporate sustainability management may have come. And none too soon, mind you. After all, the concept has been firmly ensconced in the Global Reporting Initiative’s guidelines for sustainability measurement and reporting for more than a decade now. What exactly is context-based sustainability, or CBS, though?
If you’re not using context-based metrics (CBMs) in your organization’s sustainability program, you’re not measuring sustainability performance, per se. Instead, you might be measuring eco-efficiency, citizenship, philanthropy or what have you, but not sustainability performance. In order to measure sustainability performance, impacts must be measured against norms, standards or thresholds that are context-based. Let us show you how!
Companies interested in experiencing the use of context-based metrics in their sustainability programs will be pleased to know that we (CSO) have decided to place certain of our metrics into the public domain. For starters, templates for our context-based carbon and solid waste metrics are now freely downloadable from this site.
We (CSO) are proud to have joined dozens of others as a signatory to an important public comment submitted to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in September 2012 as part of its G4 development process, in which GRI was urged in the strongest possible terms to improve its treatment of the Sustainability Context principle in the next version of its Guidelines (G4).
In April, 2011, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced its Report or Explain campaign, in which it called upon companies around the world to either report on their sustainability performance or explain why they don’t. We support that campaign, but would also like to see GRI fully enforce its own reporting guidelines or explain why it doesn’t. Of most importance is the ‘sustainability context’ requirement, which GRI clearly does not enforce.