Responsible business conduct made easier: launch of the Chinese version of the GRI Standards

A common language for companies to disclose non-financial information and enable companies around the world to better assess their impacts on the economy, the environment and society. Sounds complicated? Luckily, there are ways to achieve this. For instance, Mr. Richard Kuang, partner of Deloitte China’s Corporate Risk Consulting Team, firmly believes in the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, issued by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). “These are the most widely used instructions for an entity’s sustainability disclosure all over the world. They have a profound influence on sustainability reporting.”

A growing number of companies in the Netherlands are convinced of the importance and benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Is the situation the same in China? Mr. Kuang says that “the concept of social responsibility is created in western countries. It is an exotic idea for China. Thus, Chinese enterprises started practicing CSR relatively late. When discussing this topic, we found that some businesses have the idea that social responsibility is just limited to investing in public charities, donations and environmental protections. Additionally, some mid- and small-sized entities think that social responsibility is only for larger or state-owned enterprises.”

Spreading worldwide

Tools such as the GRI Standards are essential in further spreading CSR worldwide. “The GRI Standards focus on topics that represent the most significant impacts of an organization and are most important to their stakeholders – which supports sustainability reporting that is tailored to each individual company”, Ms. Asthildur Hjaltadottir, Director of GRI Regions and Program Implementation, explained at the launch event when introducing the Standards, “a company can prepare a sustainability report in accordance with the GRI Standards at core or comprehensive level, or disclose individual topics to meet specific reporting needs.”

Mr. Kuang also mentions: “Yearly, there are more Chinese CSR reports referring to GRI  and the launch of the Chinese translation makes it more convenient for Chinese enterprises to apply these standards. Along with GRI’s constant improvement and the popularization of its concept in China, a lot of larger enterprises in China started to write CSR reports that refer to GRI standards. I think the Chinese version will facilitate more and more Chinese enterprises, also those mid- and small-sized, to understand and apply GRI standards.”

Beijing launch

At the Beijing launch event, invited leading businesses and sustainability professionals for knowledge and case studies sharing to fellow reporters. Representatives from large multi-national corporations, large state-owned enterprises, sustainability consultancies and international ESG data providers delivered in-depth analysis and insights on sustainability risks management and reporting throughout the supply chain.

During the opening of the event, Ms. Elske Smith, Head of the economic department at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, emphasized that the quality of reporting adds value to sustainability reporting principles. “Reporting shows what actions have been undertaken and what progress has been made. Without reporting businesses simply cannot know to what extent the sustainability goals are being achieved and whether you are on the right track.”

And mr. Kuang believes, China's businesses will indeed be on the right track. "Sustainable development is a global hot topic. I believe, in the next decade, more enterprises will fulfill social responsibility and pay attention to it. CSR will be built into a Chinese entity’s strategy as an important component and become one of the core values for future development.