What does GRI-Reporting tell us about Corporate Sustainability?

Raine Isaksson
Gotland University, Sweden

Ulrich Steimle
Institute of Technology and Work, University of Kaiserslauten, Germany

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Ingår i: 11th QMOD Conference. Quality Management and Organizational Development Attaining Sustainability From Organizational Excellence to SustainAble Excellence; 20-22 August; 2008 in Helsingborg; Sweden

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 33:4, s. 61-74

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Publicerad: 2008-12-09


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


Originality/value: We critically analyze the most common framework for sustainability reporting on an empirical basis. Our qualitative study delivers insights into sustainability reporting in an industry with large impacts on global climate change and living conditions.

Purpose: We discuss what the business contribution to sustainable development is (or should be) and propose criteria for assessing corporate sustainability. These criteria are applied for the analysis of GRI-reports of five major cement manufacturers. This will result in a discussion if GRI-based sustainability reports really contain the information needed for judging corporate sustainability.

Methodology/approach: Starting from a literature review of common definitions and principals we develop main criteria of corporate sustainability and propose a set of evaluation criteria for analyzing sustainability reports. We consider definitions and principals from concepts such as Ecoefficiency; Triple-Bottom-Line; The Natural Step and stakeholder value. Using these criteria we analyze the GRI-based sustainability reports of five major cement manufacturers in order to find out to what extent the reports really address the sustainability performance of the companies. We chose the companies because of their dominant position in the building material supply chain. The building industry has multiple impacts on the environment as well as on the social system. The decisions and actions of the cement manufacturers have influence on the entire supply chain; from raw material suppliers to the end customer.

Findings: Our findings lead to the conclusion that the current GRI guidelines are not sufficient to make sustainability reporting for the cement industry relevant and clear. In other words; the guidelines are not sufficient for assuring that a report answers the questions of how sustainable a company is and how quickly it is approaching sustainability. Within the GRI guidelines the needs of the customers are not considered sufficiently. This points at an important area where business excellence ideas can support sustainability reporting. This could be done; for instance; by including the concept of cost of poor quality into sustainability reporting guidelines.


Sustainability reporting; Stakeholder value; GRI; Business Excellence; Cost of Poor Quality; Process Model


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