This website only stores essential cookies to function properly. With your consent, we will use additional cookies to improve the browsing experience. Please click on "Allow all cookies". For further information and to withdraw your consent at any time, please visit our Privacy Policy page.

The History of Sustainable Reporting

The awareness of the threats to the environment became apparent in the 1960’s and the relationship between economic development and the environment started to enter conversations. Understanding that businesses needed to recognize their impact and role in society, and not just worry about just profit, created the momentum to review the need to be aware of an entities impact directly. Thus, the first Earth Day was held on 22 April 1970.

At the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, they proposed addressing environmental problems with global participation, and it was decided to establish an organization that would serve this purpose. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was established by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 2997 of December 15, 1972. UNEP, which is an important building block for the institutionalization of social-environmental awareness, rapidly started to develop multilateral participatory contracts.

In 1980, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published a re-port entitled “World Conservation Strategy” (WCS), developed jointly with UNEP. It stated that the capacity of natural resources to support life is limited, and therefore the needs of future generations should always be taken into consideration. Thus, within the framework of the relationship between the economy and the environment, economic development should be sustained by supporting all life on Earth and preserving natural resources.

The report “World Conservation Strategy” published in 1980, “World Commission on Environment and Development” which was formed in 1983, and the report “Our Common Future,” published in 1987, provided the theoretical framework and the general acceptance of the concept of sustainable development, as well as the need for sustain-ability reporting. After that, sustainability became more popular after the 1987 United Nations report, Our Common Future, or known as the Brundtland Report, was published.

The Brundtland Commission defined the term Sustainable Development, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  The ideology and goals of Sustainable development care to balance economic development, social development and environmental protection.

The World Conservation Strategy Report set out three main objectives for this. The first was to make sustainable the basic ecological processes and life support systems that are the basis for the survival of humanity. The second was to preserve genetic diversity, and the third was to preserve ecosystems. The report provided practical guidance and an intellectual framework to achieve the three objectives.

Environmental reporting, which communicates to stakeholders the impacts of an enterprise’s activities on the environment, became more important after the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, especially for the investors. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 can be regarded as the turning point when stakeholders began to request information about the environmental impacts of companies’ operations. In the early 1990s, the issue of sustainability reporting was dealt with in the context of environmental accounting and reporting focused on the environmental impacts of business operations.

“The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies” (CERES), was established in 1989 by a group of environmentalists and investors. CERES pointed out the need for businesses to reassess their roles and responsibilities as an economic, environmental, and social entity, and in the autumn of 1989, published the Valdez Principles. These principles, also called the CERES Principles, can be considered the first comprehensive guide in history that aimed to establish ethical environmental behavior in business activities.

The GRI was transformed into an independent entity following the publication of the G1, and in 2002 it moved its headquarters to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The GRI officially launched its headquarters under the auspices of UNEP, and thus highlighted itself as an organization dedicated to sustainability reporting. The establishment of an expert committee for the preparation of sustainability reporting guidelines, and the introduction of G3 at an international conference, paved the way for increased awareness of sustainability reporting. In 2010, the United Nations recognized the GRI guidelines as the basis for sustain-ability reporting.

In 2016, the GRI published its first sustainability reporting standard set.

Read the full research paper below.