The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Home / Leveraging the GRI Standards to Gain a Competitive Advantage
The GRI Standards are not a box ticking exercise - they can be used to gain a competitive advantage

Leveraging the GRI Standards to Gain a Competitive Advantage

The GRI Standards are the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards: 80% of the world’s 250 largest companies use them to report.
They identify their most important impacts and proceed by measuring, managing and changing. The GRI Standards are not a box ticking exercise: they can be used by any company, regardless of size, sector or location, not only to get a clearer picture of future risks and challenges, but also to identify and act on opportunities. Responsible sustainability reporting is like having your radar switched on.

A growing number of companies are overwhelmingly choosing sustainable products and services

A key insight is that a growing number of companies, who are sustainability reporters (and responsible individuals), are overwhelmingly choosing sustainable products and services. Most importantly, sustainability reporters are choosing to do business with companies that tie in well with their sustainability efforts. Companies are choosing business partners for the long term that demonstrate that they benefit from the transition to the green economy and respond to climate, demographic, technological change, and political developments.  Research by well-recognized institutions shows that sustainability is an emerging megatrend. In addition to supply chain pressure, regulators are forcing companies to disclose non-financial information (in the EU, all large companies are required to report).

Moreover, companies who are reporting, in their effort to reduce their impacts even further, investigate and chose products and services that help them to do so.

How Desso gains a competitive advantage by controlling recycling

Consider Desso, which, by leasing carpets, is better able to ensure products are returned for recycling. By offering customers (e.g. hotel chains, governments, corporate offices, retail outlets, and healthcare) the option to lease rather than own carpets, Desso controls recycling and helps customers demonstrate, in their sustainability reports, how they manage to reduce even further their own impacts. Other carpet manufacturers who are not able to offer such solutions are doing so to their own detriment.

How did Coca-Cola handle problems with its bottled water business in Japan?

“Minaqua”, Coca-Cola’s bottled water brand in Japan, was suffering because it was not connecting to two key insights:

  • In Japan, recycling is not a nice-to-have, it’s a way of life
  • Real estate: a typical unit in Tokyo, which is home to 13 million people, is about 70 sq.m.

In 2009, Coca-Cola introduced an all-new Japanese bottled water brand, ILOHAS, whose bottles weighed just 12 grams when empty (40% less than the company’s other plastic bottles), and additional benefits included:

  • a 3,000 tons reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide produced during the manufacturing process
  • lighter delivery loads
  • recycling shipments with less wasted air
  • a smaller number of waste disposal emissions

As the ILOHAS bottle is so light, it can easily be twisted by hand into a thin, gnarly scrap of plastic, and take up significantly less room in recycling bins. Coca-Cola’s simple promotion message, “1. Choose 2. Drink 3. Twist 4. Recycle” went viral in Japan, with consumers posting videos on YouTube featuring them twisting. The product sales spiked by double digits in less than six months, along with a dramatic rise in recycling.

I invite you to take action, identify your most important impacts, measure, manage, and change and become, with your positive contribution, part of a positive chain reaction that is changing our world.


Simon Pitsillides


MBA Marketing, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, GRI Nominated Trainer, IEMA Approved Trainer



This article was compiled using the case studies below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses but made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the original meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original please revert to the following links:

1) Case study: How Desso designs and produces recyclable products containing recycled content,

2) Design to grow (David Butler & Linda Tischler 2015)