A good governance structure of a NGO is as important as good work it does. GRI is a good example that has the two aspects. The systematic multi-stakeholder governance of GRI enables it to hear different voices from people with various backgrounds and put its good work back to influence the governors from all walks of fields.
As a global multi-stakeholder network, GRI’s governance bodies act as a multi-stakeholder network, which unite senior people with diverse skills, education, life experiences and cultural backgrounds, and typically include representatives from up to 30 countries at any one time. The Board of Directors, Stakeholder Council and Technical Advisory Committee, each plays a lead role in developing GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework, and deciding GRI’s direction.
The governance structure—The Technical Advisory Committee, The Stakeholder Council, the Board of Directors, is designed to maintain multi-stakeholder representation. The Technical Advisory Committee oversees the development of GRI’s Framework content, and provides expert sustainability reporting advice and oversees the development of the Guidelines. The Stakeholder Council, the main multi-stakeholder forum in GRI’s governance structure, provides advice on strategic and policy issues, and debates proposed changes to the Framework content; as representatives of GRI’s wider network, they provide a balanced, expert view that lends credibility to GRI’s guidance. Following recommendations from the Technical Advisory Committee and the Stakeholder Council, the Board of Directors is the final decision-making authority at GRI.
Except for the three diversity groups, GRI Secretariat formed another geographically diverse, multi-stakeholder Working Groups under the direction of the Board of Directors by recruiting volunteer experts from around the world to develop sector guidance. Members serve as individuals and not as official representatives of their organization. As temporary bodies, they meet regularly over a period of one or two years, developing guidance in a consensus-seeking environment facilitated by GRI.
To make the Working Group more specifically, GRI creates other Working Groups—Sector Supplement Working Groups and G4 Working Groups.
l Sector Supplement Working Groups
The Sector Supplement Working Groups include fields of airport operators, construction and real estate, electric utilities, event organizers, food processing, media, mining and metals, NGO, etc. Overseen by the Technical Advisory Committee, they typically include approximately 20 members, with 50 percent from the industry and 50 percent non-industry organizations. Industry members reflect the variety of companies in the sector in terms of size, location and activity, and non-industry members reflect a diverse range of opinions from environmental and social civil society groups, investors, labor and academia. In specific situations, additional expertise may be added to the Working Group.
l G4 Working Groups
The G4 Working Groups are tasked with developing the content of the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines – G4. All Working Groups will contribute to the G4 Guidelines, which are: Supply Chain Disclosure Working Group, Disclosure on Management Approach Working Group, Governance and Remuneration Working Group, etc.
The Technical Advisory Committee holds the right in the decision of convening Working Groups in different types and integrating different Sector Working Groups in the G4 development process.
The Advisory Group is another kind of Group comprised by individuals from high-level positions.
l The Governmental Advisory Group
The Governmental Advisory Group is a high-level advisory body that provides GRI’s Board and Executive Management with a direct source of advice from governments. It is an informal body with no constitutional role, thereby preserving GRI’s independence.
The Group enables GRI to better understand governments’ perspectives on their role in CSR and sustainability reporting; and governments can benefit from more detailed knowledge of GRI’s work and achievements.
The Group also functions as a platform to exchange ideas and experiences between the members themselves; many governments are becoming more active in developing policies for sustainability reporting.
The Governmental Advisory Group’s mandate is to provide informal high-level feedback and advice to GRI. In fulfilling this function, the Governmental Advisory Group may:
• seek and receive information regarding all relevant aspects of GRI’s structure and operations;
• act as a ‘sounding board’ for GRI in response to questions;
• suggest ways of increasing sustainability reporting uptake by public agencies;
• exchange best practice and advice among themselves, serving as a mutual information, coordination and brainstorm platform; and
• offer advice on how GRI might better achieve its mission.
To ensure transparency, the GRI Board Chair or Chief Executive will provide briefings on the Governmental Advisory Group’s activities to governance bodies – Technical Advisory Committee, Stakeholder Council, and the Board – as required.
Focal Points Advisory Groups
Focal Points are local GRI offices in particular countries. As an important communications channel between different regions and GRI’s Secretariat, Focal Points respond to the needs of local stakeholders, build sustainability reporting capacity and value, and encourage more regional stakeholders to participate in GRI’s global network and activity.
As the size and structure of Focal Points differs from country to country, depending on local circumstances, it’s important to set up local working groups in each Focal Points and get them together twice every year.
l Meeting in India
I was lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in the preparation for the 2nd Advisory Group Meeting on Mar. 22nd in New Delhi—drafting agenda and invitation, sending out to Working Group members, getting their confirmation, collecting all feedbacks, preparing logistics, etc.
Through the meeting, representatives from governments, business and NGOs got together to communicate with each other and share their opinions about CSR, sustainability report, and Rio+20, which will be held in this June in Rio after 10 years when it was held in Johannesburg. They even elected the chair for themselves. The meeting was held at one of the Working Group member’s organization, which was a very good case for fair contributions and an encouragement for others to do the same.