Understanding CSR Reporting Frameworks

A New Global Standard for CSR Reporting
November 25, 2013

A recent multi-stakeholder survey concluded that the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) stand out among Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting frameworks as the most important, credible, and favored by companies and other organizations. When asked what framework provides value, the 277 participants ranked CDP at 67 percent, GRI with 49 percent, and DJSI at 45 percent.

As you now may know, these reporting initiatives have overlapping content as well as some important differences. CDP provides a framework for firms to measure and disclose their Greenhouse Gas (GHG), water, and supply chain performance. The primary focus of CDP is climate change mitigation and protection of natural resources. GRI, on the other hand, focuses on the economic, environmental, and social impact of an organization's material activities on its stakeholders.

The CDP and GRI frameworks are publicly available. To submit data to the DJSI, companies must be invited and the results of the analysis are not available in the public domain.

Target audiences of these frameworks also differ. Investors are the main target audience for CDP and DJSI. The primary stakeholders of a GRI report are determined by the material issues for the company and typically include shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers, regulators, NGOs, and local communities.

What is the best CSR reporting framework for my company? 

The choice of which framework or combination of frameworks is most appropriate for your company depends on what you want to talk about and who your target stakeholders are. Asking a few basic questions about your company's CSR reporting goals can help to clarify the situation.

A few good questions to ask are:

  • Why is my company producing a CSR report?
  • Where is the value for our company in CSR reporting?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What are the internal obstacles to producing our CSR report?
  • The whole point of CSR reporting is to engage in a sincere and meaningful dialogue with stakeholders in order to build trust, confidence, and convey mutual respect. That being said, it is vital to discuss areas that are important for both your company and its key stakeholders.

    Does it make sense to use more than one reporting framework?

    It is appropriate to use more than one framework if you have stakeholders that prefer you to use specific methodologies on certain topics. Clearly, though, there is some overlap. CDP and GRI signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2013 to create a partnership with the goal of further improving the consistency and comparability of data between their frameworks.

    Whatever framework or frameworks you choose to use, the CSR Reporting Solution powered by Wdesk will streamline and optimize the CSR report creation, production, and publishing process in several languages. Reporting teams can easily collaborate on assembling, drafting, and reviewing CSR reports while complying with regulations, reporting requirements, and best practices. Dedicated to meeting your CSR reporting needs, the Wdesk platform delivers the only fully integrated solution operating in real time. Click here to learn more about the CSR Reporting Solution on Wdesk.


      "Companies to benefit as CDP and GRI collaborate to harmonize reporting frameworks." (2013).

      Global Reporting Initiative. Retrieved from https://www.globalreporting.org/information/news-and-press-center/Pages/...> Davies, J. (2013). "Why CDP, GRI, DJSI stand out among sustainability frameworks."

      GreenBiz Intelligence  Panel. Retrieved from http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/08/19/why-cdp-gri-djsi-stand-out-among... "GreenBiz Intelligence Panel." (2013).

    Francis Quinn

    About the author

    Francis Quinn is the Director of Corporate Sustainability Technologies for Workiva. Before joining Workiva, he directed sustainable development for L’Oréal in Paris.