The GRI - Sustainability Scorecard

The GRI - Global Reporting Initiative - are a collection of standardized areas that provide some level of consistency and completeness in reporting performance in the areas of societal and environmental impacts.

The GRI - Global Reporting Initiative - are a collection of standardized areas that provide some level of consistency and completeness in reporting performance in the areas of societal and environmental impacts. (Note 1)

The need...

GRI information is typically collected through a series of annual surveys, interviews and assessments. This approach meets certain needs, but not others. Organizations also need:

  • Progress to be tracked on an on-going basis: traditionally sustainability has been reported once a year, often through responses to interview questions. Annual reporting does not allow the organization to see and react to on-going activities.
  • Risk reduction: Many huge fines levied on businesses are the result of mistakes, lack of supervision or poor training at fairly junior level. These mistakes do not conveniently occur just before your annual assessment...and are often the result of accumulating smaller mistakes. The Sustainability Scorecard not only provides on-going monitoring, but also brings more awareness to the people in the organisation who manage and potentially cause the problem.
  • A single view of the truth: The Sustainability Scorecard is just one view of the overall Corporate Scorecard. The Corporate Scorecard includes specialized views - such as sustainability, risk, etc. With the scorecard, executives can see all aspects of performance in the same meeting, with the same team...not separate a discussion on performance, and sometime later a conversation on sustainability...and sometime later (with a different team), on risk...and learn the interconnections. Annual assessments are apart-from, not a part-of, on-going operations.
  • Quantitative Measures: the measures on the sustainability scorecard are based on the hard facts that are generated by on-going activities. These same measures may be also used in some of the other views. This means:
  • The data to be reliable: executives can trust the number they are seeing this period is related to what they saw last period. They can make trust-worthy decisions based on what they see.
  • The data to be repeatable: The same results would be reported for the same performance at any location, anywhere in the world. Interview questions are not repeatable across organizations or time.
  • True Benchmarks: For a measure to serve as a benchmark, it must be collected and reported in exactly the same way in every organization. Only in this way can executives compare their performance against other organizations. Interview-based results cannot serve as benchmarks - they lack to required consistency.
  • On-going reporting: Because the measures are pulled from the transaction systems - i.e. people do not have to stop their day-jobs to get the data - the scorecard can be produced every month without any drag on the organization. It is apart-of, not apart-from, the job. This means that it is effortless to maintain the scorecard.
  • Provide clear communication to all stakeholders: The measures can be put into all the different sustainability scorecards (B-Corp, UN-SDG, Future-Fit, etc.), so different stakeholders can view the performance in their preferred context(s).
  • Navigation: Executives need to navigate their organizations - turn them right or left based on events and opportunities. The sustainability Scorecard provides them with the tool to make on-going navigational decisions to improve sustainability.
  • Valuation / ROI of the organization: based on the Future-Fit Business Benchmark metrics, we can calculate the value created by your sustainability initiatives.
  • Employee engagement: The Sustainability Scorecard cascades down to the departments, teams and individuals. As such each person can understand their purpose -their contribution to Sustainability, see their on-going progress, make informed decisions about what to do, and socialize their work.
  • Sustainability gap analysis: Quantifies the monthly gap between actual and target performance.
  • Initiative gap-closing potential: Provides a tool to asses the gap-closing potential of sustainability projects
  • Link sustainability projects to their improvements: Allows the organization to see if projects are making the difference they chartered to accomplish.
  • Community learning: As we gather data within and across organizations, we develop system-wide knowledge to understand the collective impact, develop the shared measures, and help solve societal issues.


We have created a GRI Sustainability Scorecard that combines best practices from GRI (and other sustainability frameworks), performance measurement, and governance into a single tool - and view for all stakeholders and leadership to use.(Note 2)

The scorecard draws upon data that is already collected in the organization. Some organizations have better existing data than others, but in every case we can establish the current baseline and long-term break-even sustainability target, and begin the on-going sustainability journey.

For those organization with lower quality of existing data, they may enter the scorecard at the novice level, say one-star, but as they improve their sustainability data they will "level-up" to two-starts, etc. up to five-star...truly benchmarkable data that can be used across organizations, regions and sectors... as well as achieving the above needs.


We have tackled similar issues in the Risk and Employee Engagement areas. In those areas what organizations experienced included:

  • Over 25% improvement in achievement of goals
  • 70% reduction in non-compliance fines
  • 80% improvement in employee engagement
  • 35% improvement of understanding goals and targets

What now?

We continue to work with 'early adopters'. We are currently working on ways to simplify and speed-up the design, delivery and implementation of the GRI-Sustainability Scorecard. If your organization would like to 'level-up' your GRI reporting and benefits, let us know and we can talk about how we can build you a better GRI solution.


Note 1: GRI - paraphrased from G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines,

Note 2 - Scorecards: In the world of sustainability scorecards, we incorporate design criteria:

  • An organization's scorecard's goals link to one or more of the established sustainability goals (i.e B-Corp, UN-Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), GRI, <IR>, SASB, etc.)
  • The scorecard is populated with data that comes from existing reporting systems in the organization (not interviews, external assessments or audits)
  • Multiple targets are set - near term, long-term and triple-bottom-line break-even.

Brett Knowles

Brett Knowles is a thought leader in the Strategy Execution space for high-tech organizations. His client work has been published in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, and many other business publications.

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