PRI Chair optimistic on Rio+20 corp. sustainability reporting as four governments announce backing

Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa back proposed comply-or-explain regime.

Wolfgang Engshuber, Chairman of the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) says he is optimistic that an investor-backed proposal at the Rio+20 conference requiring all listed and large private companies to “consider sustainability issues and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle” will be adopted by governments. Engshuber was speaking from Rio de Janeiro via a live-feed to the Canadian Social Investment Organisation (SIO) conference in Montreal.

His comments come as ministers from four countries, Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa, announced that they were banding together to back the commitment to a corporate sustainability reporting proposal outlined in paragraph 47 of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – outcome document.

 The four governments have invited the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to support them. The four revealed their support for the corporate reporting commitment at an event in Rio yesterday evening (June 20), titled: ‘Denmark & South Africa Show the Way: Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting Create a Green Economy and Sustainable Development’. Villy Søvndal, Minister for Foreign Affairs in Denmark where large companies are already required to report their economic,environmental and social performance, or explain why not, told the event:

 “Governments can play a crucial role in driving sustainability practices and disclosure at a national level. In Denmark, the legal requirement for the largest companies to report is having positive effects – increasing Danish companies’ international reputation and creating value for the companies and their stakeholders.
“These positive outcomes have in turn motivated more companies to address their Corporate Social Responsibility and to report on their sustainability performance. The Rio+20 Conference should inspire more governments and businesses to adopt sustainability reporting as a driver for sustainable development.”

In South Africa, companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are required to produce a report integrating their financial and sustainability performance, or also explain why not, a requirement of the King III Code.

 Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, explains the benefits. “Adoption of more sustainable approaches will create new green jobs, open up new investment opportunities and export markets; support the creation of knowledge based economy and allow South Africa to set standards and demonstrate thought leadership.”