Sustainability Context Group (SCG)
A global network of leaders from business, investment, civil society, government, academia, etc… who advocate for more robust application of the Sustainability Context Principle, which calls for respecting ecological, social, and economic thresholds & allocations. The Susty Context Group now acts under the r3.0 umbrella.
History of the SCG
The Sustainability Context Group (SCG) was co-founded in 2012 by r3.0 Senior Director Bill Baue and Center for Sustainable Organizations (CSO) Executive Director (and r3.0 Advocation Partner) Mark McElroy on the suggestion of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Co-Founder Allen White of the Tellus Institute. White played an instrumental role in the original conception of the Sustainability Context Principle, which GRI introduced in its second generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines in 2002.
The essence of the Sustainability Context Principle
The essence of the Sustainability Context Principle is that
- sustainability reporting draw significant meaning from the larger context of how performance at the organisational level affects economic, environmental, and social capital formation and depletion at a local, regional, or global level… [R]eporting organisations should consider their individual performance in the … context of the limits and demands placed on economic, environmental, or social resources at a macro-level.
In other words, Sustainability Context calls for making the micro-macro link between organizational-level impacts on ecological, social, and economic resources, and systems-level carrying capacities of these capitals (natural, social, human, built, and economic). Stated slightly differently, Sustainability Context calls for respecting ecological, social, and economic thresholds at the macro systems level, via fair just, and proportionate allocations of accountability at the micro organizational level.
A decade later, there was little evidence that reporting organizations were implementing this fundamental Principle. As White told Baue:
- Sustainability requires contextualization within thresholds; that’s what sustainability is all about. Yet to this day, contextualization rarely appears in sustainability assessments
Advocacy of the SCG
To address this issue, White recommended that Baue & McElroy gather a collective voice to support more robust enactment of Sustainability Context. So Baue & McElroy pulled together about 150 global experts to join the Susty Context Group, in order to conduct ad hoc, opt-in advocacy to advance Sustainability Context. In its first year, the Group submitted a raft of Public Comments to:
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) on G4, the fourth generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (Submitted 24 September 2012 with 66 signatories), and its GHG Emissions Guidance (Submitted 12 November 2012 with 27 signatories);
- International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) on its International <IR> Framework (Submitted 8 July 2013 with 63 signatories);
- Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SAAB) on its Conceptual Framework (Submitted 26 July 2013 with 37 signatories);
- Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) on its Principles (Submitted 2 April 2013 with 57 signatories).
Of these four organizations, GISR was the only one that addressed the Susty Context Group’s input. (When GISR officially disbanded in 2019, it transferred custodianship of its Principles to r3.0.)Perhaps the most significant early influence the Susty Context Group exerted was in instigating what became the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). At the 2012 Ceres Conference in Boston, SCG Co-Founder Baue pointed out to World Resources Institute (WRI) VP for Science & Research (and SCG member) Janet Ranganathan that the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the gold standard for corporate GHG emissions reporting, lacked an explicit tie-in to the climate science – in particular, the threshold of the carbon budget. Ranganathan invited Baue to meet with her and GHG Protocol Global Director Pankaj Bhatia in Washington, DC that summer, followed by Baue continuing, to confer with them as they explored whether to revise the GHG Protocol, which they ultimately decided was too complex, so they set about considering other options.
In the summer of 2013, WRI hosted a meeting with Baue, SCG Co-Founder Mark McElroy, Nigel Topping of CDP (at the time – now High Level Champion for Climate Action at COP26), Marty Spitzer of WWF, and John Sottong of EPA (now with WRI) that resulted in agreement to launch what became the Science Based Targets initiative. Baue and McElroy have served on SBTi’s Technical Advisory Group ever since its founding.Going forward, the Susty Context Group will continue to conduct advocacy to support more robust application of thresholds & allocations, in support of the Sustainability Context Principle, under the auspices of r3.0.
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