sustainabilityA new format for tagging data in sustainability reports has been released by the Global Reporting Iniative (GRI), which says it will help reveal information on on the sustainability performance of companies – including carbon emissions, water use and human rights infringements – easier to find.

An estimated 95 percent of the world’s 250 biggest companies report their sustainability performance. GRI already produces The Framework, a sustainability reporting framework that includes the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines -- indicators that organizations can use to measure and report their sustainability performance.

The new XBRL taxonomy for tagging sustainability data in reports is intended to make it easier for regulators, investors and analysts to find and analyze data. The GRI Taxonomy – which is available for free – was developed in collaboration with Deloitte Netherlands. A team of experts from different stakeholder communities reviewed the draft taxonomy before the Public Comment Period.

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. An open-source tagging language similar to XML, it is used worldwide for tagging data in financial reports. Today’s taxonomy will enable companies and other organizations to use XBRL to improve their sustainability reporting and make the data in their reports more accessible.

Cees de Boer, CFO and COO of Deloitte Netherlands, which collaborated with GRI on the Taxonomy, said: “With the release of the GRI Taxonomy, many organizations can benefit from a well-defined, structured format for collecting and disseminating sustainability information. It enables both reporters and regulators to exchange sustainability data electronically and inform stakeholders with consistent and high quality information. It can be a major leap in the interactive use of sustainability data and integrating financial and non-financial reporting.”

Tagging sustainability data in reports requires a piece of software. Some regulators – including stock exchanges and governments – use various tools to search for data and compare the performance of different companies.

GRI has also launched a Voluntary Filing Program, where reporters that use the new GRI Taxonomy can promote their tagged reports on GRI’s website.