This week the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is poised to become the first environmental agency in North America to meet rigorous reporting standards for sustainability measures set by a global organization serving thousands of organizations worldwide.
The release of Ecology’s Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Report combines for the first time financial, environmental, social and governance performance indicators and standards for measuring sustainability in a single document.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization working to establish standardized reporting of sustainability practices for private businesses and public and non-profit organizations around the world. Its goal is to make sustainability reporting as important as preparing financial reports.
Increasingly, the GRI standard is being adopted across the U.S. and Washington state. Companies such as Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft and others are using this universal, standardized measurement tool to communicate their impact to their clients and community.
“Ecology’s sustainability plan sets goals for the agency to merge sustainability into our decision-making, employee education and ecological footprint,” said K Seiler, Ecology manager of the Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. Seiler is also executive sponsor of Ecology’s agency-wide Sustainability Team. “By publishing our GRI Report, Ecology shows Washington citizens how we walk our talk.”
Seiler added, “This report makes it easier to show where we’ve done well and where we still have work to do to incorporate sustainable practices in our policies and actions.”
Ecology’s GRI Report highlights activities to reduce waste, improve efficiencies, engage stakeholders and promote Lean innovation at the department based on key performance measures. For instance, the agency’s Carbon Smart Initiative drove energy-efficiency actions that resulted in annual utility savings of more than $100,000 at agency buildings.
Also, a green information technology project will save the agency $1.2 million over five years by reducing electricity and cooling costs by reducing the need for new servers.
At office buildings across the state, Ecology has put in place measures to conserve water, increase energy efficiency, establish composting, and conduct waste reduction audits. Employees started an organic vegetable garden through volunteer work at its headquarters building that benefits the local food bank.
By establishing a precise, uniform reporting standard, GRI aims to make sustainability reporting as common as regular financial reporting. This measurement tool is to organizations’ sustainability reporting what the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard has become for the construction industry.
In October, the GRI database listed more than 4,700 organizations worldwide that had published over 10,400 reports. GRI was founded in 1997.