November 02, 2009
Room for Improvement Exists in Corporate Sustainability Reporting on Gender
by Robert Kropp
The Global Reporting Initiative and IFC issue guidance for enhanced corporate reporting on gender
issues, and advise investors to encourage gender diversity.
Despite the presence of gender-related indicators in the sustainability reporting guidelines issued
by the Global Reporting Initiative
(GRI), few companies report sufficiently on gender-related issues, according to a guide
entitled Embedding Gender in Sustainability
Reporting. The guide was released by GRI and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the CSR Asia Summit 2009.
GRI includes gender references in the Labor
Practices and Decent Work Performance Indicators of its sustainability reporting guidelines. The
guidelines advise companies to report on the number and rate of employee turnover by gender, the
composition of governance bodies and breakdown of employees according to gender, and the ratio of
salary of men to women.
The guide suggests that integrating gender perspectives into
sustainability reporting can help companies publicly demonstrate their accountability to women,
gain recognition for their efforts from workers, investors, and consumers, and help stakeholders
learn how the operations of companies contribute to gender equality.
Guidance is provided
to companies for implementing gender equality in the areas of organizational governance and values,
the workplace, the supply chain, the community, consumers, and investment.
In the area of
investment, the guide observes that "Led by socially responsible investment (SRI) funds, but
increasingly being adopted by others, investors' decisions are often informed by public interest
concerns," and that "Some socially responsible investment funds screen for gender performance when
selecting companies to invest in." Furthermore, according to the guide, "there is a growing belief
in the investment world, supported by research findings, that companies that empower women and
encourage gender diversity may outperform others in the long term."
The guide advises both
sustainability and mainstream investors to exert influence on companies by implementing policies
for investment decision-making that include gender criteria.
Acknowledging that its
current sustainability reporting guidelines "only cover a limited number of explicit
gender-specific issues," GRI concludes with a statement of intention to consider gender for
inclusion in forthcoming updates of the guidelines.
SRI World Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.