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November 02, 2009

Room for Improvement Exists in Corporate Sustainability Reporting on Gender
    by Robert Kropp

The Global Reporting Initiative and IFC issue guidance for enhanced corporate reporting on gender issues, and advise investors to encourage gender diversity. -- Despite the presence of gender-related indicators in the sustainability reporting guidelines issued by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), few companies report sufficiently on gender-related issues, according to a guide entitled Embedding Gender in Sustainability Reporting. The guide was released by GRI and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the CSR Asia Summit 2009.

GRI includes gender references in the Labor Practices and Decent Work Performance Indicators of its sustainability reporting guidelines. The guidelines advise companies to report on the number and rate of employee turnover by gender, the composition of governance bodies and breakdown of employees according to gender, and the ratio of salary of men to women.

The guide suggests that integrating gender perspectives into sustainability reporting can help companies publicly demonstrate their accountability to women, gain recognition for their efforts from workers, investors, and consumers, and help stakeholders learn how the operations of companies contribute to gender equality.

Guidance is provided to companies for implementing gender equality in the areas of organizational governance and values, the workplace, the supply chain, the community, consumers, and investment.

In the area of investment, the guide observes that "Led by socially responsible investment (SRI) funds, but increasingly being adopted by others, investors' decisions are often informed by public interest concerns," and that "Some socially responsible investment funds screen for gender performance when selecting companies to invest in." Furthermore, according to the guide, "there is a growing belief in the investment world, supported by research findings, that companies that empower women and encourage gender diversity may outperform others in the long term."

The guide advises both sustainability and mainstream investors to exert influence on companies by implementing policies for investment decision-making that include gender criteria.

Acknowledging that its current sustainability reporting guidelines "only cover a limited number of explicit gender-specific issues," GRI concludes with a statement of intention to consider gender for inclusion in forthcoming updates of the guidelines.

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