Global Reporting Initiative launches Focal Point for a more sustainable Africa

The Global Reporting Initiative will officially launch its Focal Point South Africa at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange next week, with a mission to make sustainability reporting standard practice for companies and organizations in South Africa and the wider region.

The Focal Point, hosted by ACCA South Africa, will act as a regional hub, facilitating and promoting the active engagement of African organizations in the development of sustainability reporting regionally and globally.

Though based in Johannesburg,the Focal Point will seek to engage partners and stakeholders in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa is renowned globally for its forward-thinking moves on sustainability reporting. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange was among the first in the world to make disclosure of sustainability information mandatory for listed companies. In addition, the South African government is a founder member of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47, an inter-governmental alliance formed at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, calling ongovernmentsaround the world to take action to foster a culture of corporate transparency.

GRI Chief Executive Ernst Ligteringen said: “South Africa has already played a unique and exemplary role in the story of sustainability reporting.  The opening of GRI’s Focal Point South Africa reflects the fact that the country is a global leader in this space, with a major contribution to make to the mainstreaming of sustainability reporting around the world.

“From its office in Johannesburg, GRI will be working on the ground with reporters and report users in South Africa to help them draw on their rich experience, share it with others and participate in the global network of those committed to advancing sustainability disclosure. As well as working closely with established reporters, GRI will be reaching out to the many other businesses and organizations in the region who are at the beginning of their sustainability reporting journey.”

South Africa is experiencing a major upsurge in sustainability reporting. In 2010-2011, the number of companies and organizations in South Africa who reported using the GRI Guidelines increased by 97 per cent.

The launch event, on Tuesday 26 February, will be attended by a wide range of stakeholders drawn from business, government, civil society, labor, academia and the financial sector, who will be discussing the key challenges and opportunities for sustainability reporting in South Africa and the wider region.

Douglas Kativu, the Director of Focal Point South Africa, explained: “Considerable inward investment is being made in sub-Saharan Africa, but outside of South Africa, sustainability reporting is not yet widely established.GRI will be debating with local stakeholders what role reporting can play in promoting dialogue about the social, economic and environmental impacts of growth and wealth creation in Africa.”

Among the speakers present at the event will beAlf Wills, Deputy Director General at the Department of Environmental Affairs, Professor Mervyn King, author of the King Code on Corporate Governance, and Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative.                                                                            

The establishment of the new Focal Point has been made possible by funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) - part of a larger funding package for a program that GRI is implementing together with the UN Global Compact. 

The Focal Point will be hosted by ACCA South Africa (ACCA SA), the self-regulating global body for accounting professionals, offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification. ACCA promotes transparency and best practice, and aims to help businesses and organizations realize the growing importance of sustainability.

Ms. Nadine Kater, Head of ACCA South Africa, said:ACCA SA is delighted to be hosting the GRI Focal Point from our offices in Johannesburg. Africa and Southern Africa are very important regions in the world.  The GRI Guidelines have a vital role to play in assisting the entire African continent to create sustainable economies and accountable, responsible leadership.”

In February 2010, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) made it compulsory for all listed companies to comply with King III, including the recommendation for a company to produce an integrated report for its financial year.