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The Global Reporting Initiative is a loose network of organizations and individuals devoted to increasing corporate accountability and transparency. It is the goal of the initiative to create a system of reports on businesses around the world measuring their dedication to environmental, social, and governance issues. In this way, the Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI, attempts to show these elements as clearly as financial reports show how profitable businesses are. A set of sustainability reporting guidelines is the benchmark for the reports that the GRI files.
In the modern world, the need for businesses to show their actions clearly to the public has become of paramount importance, especially in light of various financial scandals and meltdowns all over the world. Businesses no longer only have to worry about their bottom line. They also have to be concerned with some intangible aspects that don't show up in financial reports but still have a broad impact on the societies in which they operate. The brainchild of a Unites States-based, non-profit organization, the Global Reporting Initiative represents an effort to measure businesses on their attempts to do more than simply turn a profit.
Much of what the Global Reporting Initiative stresses is based on sustainability reporting. This is a concept that requires corporations to find ways to do business without acting as a detriment to the environment around them. Instead, their methods doing business should actually produce a net positive in terms of environmental concerns like greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions.
Aside from environmental concerns, the Global Reporting Initiative judges corporations based on their progress on social issues. For example, a company that does a good job on an environmental front but increases the presence of various social ills within its community would likely fall short in a GRI report. How clearly a corporation reveals itself to the public at large is also another large factor in determining whether the GRI gives it a positive grade.
Since most of these issues are intangible and thus extremely difficult to measure, the Global Reporting Initiative provides a standard set of sustainability reporting guidelines to which all participating organizations should adhere. These guidelines determine the way that corporations in question should define report content and report quality, and they establish a set of required disclosures that include the organization's sustainability strategy, its management approach, and certain performance indicators. In this way, all organizations can be measured by the GRI regardless of size, industry, or any other differentiating circumstances.