It’s not the report that matters most, it’s what you do with the information and insights that you got that can make a difference.
Interview with Kristin Dypdahl, Coordinator for the Corporate & Stakeholder Engagement Team at GRI
1.Community Index Magazine: Thousands of companies across all sectors have published reports that reference GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. What are the greatest strengths of these standards?
Kristin Dypdahl: GRI helps businesses and governments worldwide to understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, governance and social well-being. The GRI Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) are the first and most widely adopted global standards for sustainability reporting.
GRI offers a reporting framework which enables organizations to communicate sustainability information in a systematic way, enhances transparency and enables businesses to provide a balanced overview of the organizations economic, environmental and social impact. The practice of disclosing sustainability information inspires accountability, helps identify and manage risks, and enables organizations to seize new opportunities.
Reporting supports companies to protect the environment and improve society, thrive economically by improving governance and stakeholder relations, enhance their reputation and build trust. The GRI Standards is a robust framework, developed with multi-stakeholder contributions and rooted in the public interest. The framework is tailored to meet all sustainability reporting needs, from comprehensive reports to issue-specific disclosures, and is therefore suitable to use for organizations regardless of size or sector.
2. Community Index Magazine: The GRI Community brings together a global network of businesses and organizations. In what ways are you committed to demonstrating that transparency can be a catalyst for change?
Kristin Dypdahl: GRI works with a global network of thousands of professionals and organizations. We have several official constituency groups we work with to develop new reporting guidance across business, civil society, financial markets, labour, mediating institutions and academia. This approach ensures the participation and expertise of diverse stakeholders in the development of the GRI Standards.
Through the GRI Community, we collaborate closely with report preparers to better understand how reporting and transparency help companies to improve their internal procedures, promote better decision-making and facilitate change on the ground. Peer-to-peer learning and collaboration through sharing experiences and best practice drive more sustainable business. Companies get the opportunity to learn from each other and to showcase their sustainability effort to their peers and to GRI’s extended network.
3. Community Index Magazine: How have you integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into the GRI Standards?
Kristin Dypdahl: The SDGs are not integrated into the GRI Standards, but guidance exists on how the Standards and other reporting frameworks can be used to collect and prepare information relevant to the SDGs. In 2017, GRI and the UN Global Compact launched a three-year initiative, the Business Reporting on the SDGs Action Platform, aimed at facilitating corporate reporting on the SDGs.
Through this collaboration, and with the support and feedback from our stakeholders, we prepared a list of disclosures and matched them to the SDGs. Through our publications, we provide guidance on how businesses can include the SDGs in their reporting process and help companies to report on the SDGs in a comparable and effective way.
The Group will continue working to deepen the understanding of disclosure for achieving the SDGs and help disseminate effective SDG reporting practices. In 2015, we launched the SDG Compass. This tool was developed to guide companies in taking a strategic approach to the SDGs and enhancing their contribution to sustainable development through core business activities.
4. Community Index Magazine: Do you consider that a sustainability report is a key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts, whether positive or negative? What arguments can you give to support your position?
Kristin Dypdahl: Preparing a sustainability report is one way to communicate sustainability performance and impacts. Preparing a report in-accordance with the GRI Standards enables stakeholders to compare company’s sustainability effort. However, it’s not the report that matters most, it’s what you do with the information and insights that you got that can make a difference. Communicating sustainability performance and impact is only meaningful if it leads to improvement and evolution.
Most sustainability information is currently locked into pdf-format, we are exploring the possibilities the digital world offers to make data more current, concise and comparable, in other words, more useful for decision making, through projects like the Digital Reporting Tool.
5. Community Index Magazine: Why do stakeholders play a crucial role in sustainability reporting?
Kristin Dypdahl: Systematic stakeholder engagement, executed properly, is likely to result in ongoing learning within the organization, as well as increased accountability to a range of stakeholders. Accountability strengthens trust between the organization and its stakeholders. Trust, in turn, strengthens the credibility of the report.
Stakeholder inclusiveness is key, GRI wants to know how organizations engage with their stakeholders and how stakeholders inform of the problems and issues that are affecting them. Taking this information into consideration is crucial, because it enables reporting organizations to answer the right questions, giving detailed information and providing a more balanced, in-depth, and thorough overview of the overall impact.
As a Coordinator for the Corporate & Stakeholder Engagement Team at GRI, Kristin is responsible for corporate engagement in selected countries in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. The responsibility involves raising awareness and building relationships between GRI and key partner organizations and stakeholders. This includes the GRI Community program, GRIs core network of supporters, made up by over 500 diverse stakeholders in more than 60 countries. The Corporate & Stakeholder Relations department brings together a worldwide network of companies and organizations committed to GRIs mission to empower decision makers everywhere through its sustainability standards and multi-stakeholder network, to take action towards a more sustainable economy and world.
Kristin is from Norway and has a master’s degree in Sustainable Development from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a specialization in Corporate Social Responsibility in the oil & gas industries. Kristin is motivated to contribute to a world where creating financial value, goes hand-in-hand with safeguarding the environment and society.
Kristin believes that the private sector has a crucial role in promoting sustainable development through transparency and reporting, which in return enables corporations to reap the financial and non-financial rewards from sustainable business practices.
GRI is an international independent organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate their impact of business on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption and many others. GRI produces the world’s most trusted and widely used sustainability reporting standards. GRI’s vision is to create a future where sustainability is integral to every organization’s decision-making process.
The interview was first published in the bilingual yearbook Community Index Magazine No. 1, issued in June 2019.