The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was established to provide global guidelines for the reporting of social and environmental information, and to ensure consistent reporting. The Sustainability Reporting Framework provides guidance for organisations to use as the basis for disclosure about their sustainability performance, and also provides stakeholders a universally-applicable, comparable framework in which to understand disclosed information.
Although GRI reporting in Australia is voluntary, a number of Australian companies do apply the G4 guidelines, or the more recent Global Reporting Standards, in preparing a published sustainability report. Concerns have been raised that, as GRI reporting is not compulsory or necessarily audited, a company could misrepresent its level of compliance with the G4 guidelines or the Gloal Reporting Standards in publishing sustainability reports. The current lack of consequences for companies who, deliberately or unintentionally, publish misleading and inaccurate sustainability information is a contributor to this situation.
Despite the lack of enforceability in sustainability reporting the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations require a listed entity to disclosure ‘whether it has any material exposure to economic, environmental and social sustainability risks, and if it does, how it manages or intends to manage that risk’. This change reflects increasing calls globally for the business community to address matters of economic, environmental and social sustainability and the increasing demand from investors, especially institutional investors, for greater transparency on these matters so that they can properly assess investment risk.
Over Weeks 11 to 13, you are required to choose two Australian companies that participate in either Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or Integrated Reporting (IR). Specifically, students identify the two companies, their sustainability or integrated reports for the same year and collect any further published information on the company's approach to sustainability or non-financial reporting.
Using the companies identified, students are required to individually complete the assignment in two parts.
Global Reporting Initiative has helped business firms to address the impact of their business on environmental and social issues such as biodiversity, climate change and social well-being. Active involvement of stakeholders assists in developing reporting standards of GRI sustainability that need to be followed by the organisation (Beckmann, Hielscher, & Pies, 2014). In the modern period, large number of Australian firms have also considered the importance of following GRI guidelines in order to maintain their business growth along with ecosystem. However, lack of disclosure of sustainability risk has resulted in disclosure of some misleading information regarding the organisation. Therefore, ASX principles are considered for Australian companies to disclose their sustainability risk.
The aim of the paper is to compare the sustainability reports of Woolworths and Accent Group to evaluate whether these retail firms are following the guidance of GRI guidelines or not. Analysis of the ethical activities of Woolworths has also been done in order to analyse whether the business function of the organisation is ethically maintained or not.
The sustainability report of Woolworths has clearly mentioned that promotion of healthy and eco-friendly commodities will be beneficial for the firm to attain target business goals without damaging ecosystem. Improvement of the packaging system will help in managing the circular economy that influences business function. The concept of “waste of zero food” has also been included to maintain internal functionality without damaging ecological balance. Emission of carbon products by 10% has also helped the firm to maintain G4 guidelines to manage sustainable business (Wow2017cr.qreports.com.au, 2017). On other hand, the company has given valuable information such as employees numbers along with their job roles, position of headquarter, business objectives which are considered as one of the major objectives of GRI. The collaborative working with leading organisations assists the firm to manage the functionality of Global Social Compliance Program which is considered to maintain internal business system along with the environmental balance (Sdd-pdf.s3.amazonaws.com, 2018). The company has also declared the intention of gaining high level of satisfaction score from clients by the year of 2020 (). It will make it easier for the firm to maintain healthy communication with their prominent customers along with stakeholders that will influence their business function. Generation of solar power by 1,512 Mwh is also considered by the organisation to maintain ecological balance during the time of manufacturing retail products. Nutritional revolution of the company has also increased their sales operation by $55.5 billion in the recent year (Wow2017cr.qreports.com.au, 2017). Cash donations to charitable organisations has also been considered which helps in meeting G4 guideline related to performance indicator. The guideline related to management approach has made it easier for the firm to address necessary strategic objectives that need to be followed to meet healthy relation with stakeholders. The company has also considered the risk of hitting during the rime transportation of products that needs to be managed. The risk observed in managing high range commodities has also been considered.
Figure 1: Sustainability Report of Woolworths
(Source: Wow2017cr.qreports.com.au, 2017)
On other hand, sustainability report of The Athlete’s Foot has explained that the company has focused on promoting eco-friendly brand items that draws attention of large number of service users living in modern business scenario. The company promoted premium range footwear products that influences their business operation in an extensive manner. Recruitment of fit technician for every customer has made it possible for the organisation to meet their changing requirement (Ferguson & Souza, 2016). Advancement of technology has also supported the firm to control the recycle system during the time of manufacturing shoe products. Partnership with stakeholders also supports in maintaining the G4 guidelines that helps in maintaining ecological balance. Direct interaction with the customers also makes it easier for the organisation to avoid issues faced by them during the time of using athlete shoe products. Offering highly censored shoe items helps in increasing involvement of more new edge clients that has influenced the business growth by 10 % in the year of 2017 (Theathletesfoot.us, 2018). Considering the guidelines of GRI has also supported the firm to maintain health and hygiene issue within the workplace. Offering attractive pay package along with other health and monetary benefits help the firm to maintain target business growth that influences sales margin (Ferguson & Souza, 2016). However, the company has faced threaten in the ratio of carbon emission that needs to be reduced to maintain the internal functionality without any hustle.
Analysis of the sustainability report of Woolworths helps in assessing ethical activities of the firm by maintain G4 guidelines as mentioned in GRI reporting. The use of ethical sourcing helps to reach the target business goals of the firm successfully. As a member of SEDEX, Woolworths is committed to share valuable data on the system of supply chain. The company has focused on managing their business function in an ethical way in order to meet the requirement of the clients without damaging brand reputation. Utilitarianism theory of ethics can be mentioned in this context that focuses on evaluating the importance of action by the analysis of its consequence (Beckmann, Hielscher, & Pies, 2014). The main aim of this ethical theory is to share happiness in greater amount. Based on the analysis of this ethical theory, it is observed that Woolworths has shared their pre-tax profits in flood affected areas, local communities which saved lives of thousands of victims.
The community investment of the firm has increased by 1.1% in the year of 2017 which also influences proper functionality of community development programs (Wow2017cr.qreports.com.au, 2017). On other hand, the use of less refrigerant has also helped in dealing with climate change issue. However, lack of maintenance of security checking system has created a problem to protect the mental as well as physical health condition of employees in the workplace. Lack of strategic partnership has also led the company to take water supply from other places that affect the balance of ecology. Despite of certain sustainable issues, the company has focused on including solar energy system to conserve the excessive use of lights (Sdd-pdf.s3.amazonaws.com, 2018). Integration of advanced technology has also reduced the use of carbon emission that effects ecological balance. Considering the guidelines of GI increases the chances of protecting ethical business activities of the firm that facilitates profitability statistics along with positive business reputation.
Maintaining the GRI reporting standard helps the firm to manage the sustainable report. Based on the analysis of sustainable report of Woolworths and The Athlete’s Foot, it is observed that these companies have followed G4 guidelines to hold strong business reputation in thus highly competitive market scenario. Analysis of utilitarianism theory of ethics, Woolworths has considered the importance of offering eco-friendly products to maintain ecological balance. High commitment level to service users also influences the firm to manage the business function in an ethical way.