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GRI and Deloitte to Create XBRL Taxonomy; Alcoa, Shell Among G4 Sponsors

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has started development of a taxonomy for the eXtensible Business Reporting Language, which holds the promise of automating the disclosure of sustainability data.

GRI and Deloitte have signed an agreement outlining the project, which would include publication of an XBRL taxonomy covering the GRI’s G3 and G3.1 reporting guidelines.

And in related news today, the GRI has announced ten global sponsors of its next generation of reporting guidelines, G4. The companies are Alcoa, Enel, GE, Goldman Sachs, Natura, Shell, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC.

The GRI plans to publish G4 in 2013 using a multi-stakeholder consultation process. Diverse expert Working Groups and approval procedures will ensure that G4’s guidance reflects the broadest possible stakeholder input, GRI says.

The global sponsors announced today will be part of The Global G4 Consortium, which will advise GRI on topics to consider in the development of G4, to help ensure it addresses the most important current and future challenges in the corporate reporting field.

GRI and Deloitte said the taxonomy they are developing will enable companies to tag their sustainability data in reports, which will help investors, auditors and other users to access and compare GRI data more easily and quickly. The two organizations said the taxonomy will also help organizations improve the quality and integrity of their sustainability performance data.

XBRL is an open-source language for the electronic communication of business and financial data, and its potential for sustainability reporting has been under discussion for some time. Some commentators have said that the use of XBRL in sustainability reporting will push many companies to start integrating their financial and CSR reports, and could push sustainability onto the CFO’s plate.

“We are experiencing a major shift towards electronic information delivery,” said Cees de Boer, CFO and COO of Deloitte in the Netherlands. “This development is already very important in financial reporting and is increasingly being used for both numerical and textual non-financial information.

“With the shift towards integrated reporting, the XBRL standard becomes a crucial enabler for information architectures and the design of reporting standards.”

Deloitte said it will be a pilot user of the new taxonomy, since it already uses XBRL for its financial reporting and plans to use it for sustainability reporting.

In more related news, a study by CSRHub has found that companies committed to using the GRI’s reporting standards are rated as having better CSR performance than those that don’t. The ratings were drawn from CSRHub’s corporate social responsibility rating system, which aggregates data from more than 100 sources.

The publisher found that GRI-conforming companies achieved an average score of 53.7, compared to 50.1 for those that released CSR reports but did not commit to GRI standards. The difference persisted across 12 categories of performance (see chart).

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