May 21, 2014 – The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 (GoF47) has welcomed the Government of Argentina as its 10th member. The Argentinean Under Secretary for Social Responsibility, Dra Karina Yarochevski, hailed the decision: "Argentina is very pleased to join the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47. My Government’s strong commitment to sustainability reporting will further enrich the experience and activities of the Group, and we view the continued expansion of membership as a positive sign of the Group’s forward momentum".
Meeting in Copenhagen on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 April, under the chairmanship of France (Robin Edme, Senior Advisor for Responsible Finance from the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, supported by Marine de Carné, CSR Ambassador from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Group’s first day was dedicated to presentations by high-level representatives of principal sustainability reporting frameworks and initiatives including the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the US-based Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition (CSRC), as well as presentations from two Danish companies on their experience at the “sharp end” of public policies relating to sustainability reporting.
This active engagement and discussion with leading experts and initiatives in the domain of sustainability reporting is foreseen to continue at future GoF47 meetings, with the next three focusing on
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the finance sector, and the Business and Human Rights agenda respectively.
On the second day, the Group took stock of progress in a number of priority areas:
- Recognising the success of the Group in positioning the subject of corporate sustainability reporting within the context of intergovernmental discussions on the SDGs and post-2015 Development Agenda, members agreed to continue calling for the issue’s inclusion at a transversal level. The Chair, with the support of GoF47 members, commended the Group’s significant impact to date: “Sustainability reporting can provide the information required to assess sustainability impacts by the corporate sector and encourages sustainable business practices that will be crucial in achieving the SDGs. GoF47 members’ consistent support has been instrumental in securing this very important issue on the agenda.”
- Members also discussed progress in the development of public policy case studies of sustainability reporting, a concrete contribution of the Group to advancing Paragraph 47 through the showcasing of best practice and exchange of experience. The study is expected to be finalised in Autumn 2014.
- As an initial step in examining specific elements of public policies, the GoF47 has developed a Working Paper on reporting by State Owned Enterprises and Public Agencies as a potential mechanism to promote sustainability reporting, based on information gathered from members and third countries. The Paper will be publicly available.
Group members thanked the Government of Denmark for hosting the meeting. Future meetings are foreseen to rotate between members in the various regions, starting with South Africa, Colombia and Chile, and providing important opportunities for these Governments to raise awareness, both on a national and regional basis.
The Group of Friends’ first publication Frequently Asked Questions on Corporate Sustainability Reporting is available to download online and will soon be available in French and Spanish.
1. About the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 was formed by the Governments of Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa in June 2012 during the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), following the acknowledgement of the importance of corporate sustainability reporting in Paragraph 47 of the Outcome Document, The Future We Want. Since then, the Governments of Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Norway and Switzerland have become members. The Group is supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in a Secretariat capacity.
The Group’s Charter was published on 7 November 2012, the content of which reaffirms the Group’s intention to contribute to the advancement of an international culture of corporate transparency and accountability. The key points are:
- The recognition that governments have a primary role to play in moving society towards a sustainable model of development given their access to soft and hard instruments that can positively influence corporate behaviour;
- The intention to bring governments and other stakeholders together to develop best practice examples of policy and regulation for promoting corporate sustainability reporting;
- That corporate sustainability reporting should become a widespread practice to allow for a transparent, well-functioning market economy and for the private sector to contribute to sustainable development;
- To promote the use of, and build upon, existing and widely-used sustainability reporting guidance, such as principles, indicators, and frameworks;
- That developing countries and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be given particular attention in progressing on sustainability reporting if needed.
2. About UNEP
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator, promoting the wise use of the planet’s natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP’s work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management.
3. About the Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) produces a comprehensive Sustainability Reporting Framework that is widely used around the world, to enable greater organizational transparency. The Framework, including the Reporting Guidelines, sets out the Principles and Indicators organizations can use to report their economic, environmental, and social performance. GRI is committed to continuously improving and increasing the use of the Guidelines, which are freely available to the public.
GRI, a multi-stakeholder foundation, was set up in the US in 1997 by CERES and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). In 2002, GRI moved its central office to Amsterdam, where the Secretariat is currently located. GRI has regional ’Focal Points’ in Australia, Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the USA, and a worldwide network of 30,000 people.