The Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability and Reporting 2025 project looks at future trends in sustainable development and sustainability reporting. For its 2015 report, the project interviewed key leaders in business and society. The objective was to identify and discuss ways to address major global challenges through sustainability practices and to explore the role of reporting in efforts to find solutions to these problems.

Global challenges are well known, and we will need concrete action to solve them. Increasing world population, climate change, human rights, and wealth inequality are among the issues that will intensify in the next ten years. Although increased sustainability reporting shows that many businesses are doing good work in these areas, it is clear that the challenges persist.  After thirty years of sustainability reporting, the report concludes that decision makers have not put enough concern or emphasis on sustainability. 

Businesses will need to play a larger role in creating solutions to global challenges. This will require a better understanding of how global challenges will affect their business and society. The report highlights the Sustainable Development Goals as a good starting point for businesses identify ways to contribute and shape solutions. These goals reflect global consensus on the sustainability agenda and can act as a powerful indicator of future action that will impact and motive businesses.

To meet the challenges that lie ahead, businesses will need to change their business models.  They will need to reinvent and redirect to models like the circular economy or the shared economy. Companies will need to break down silos, work in cross-functional teams, and look into supply chains to create solutions that address complex, systemic problems. To be more impactful in the next decade, they will also need to innovative through collaborative partnerships with other businesses, civic organizations, and key stakeholders.  

Reporting will be an essential and important part of this process.  Transparency is increasingly important. Technology and data will become more accessible and more difficult for businesses to manage.  Reputation is and will continue to be a top concern. Reports will need to be concise and focus on what really matters to each particular business, with more emphasis on providing contextual descriptions for relevant data. 

In the words of Marina Migliorato of Enel (Italy's largest power company and the second largest utility listed in Europe by installed capacity, with operations in 40 countries) said,

“We need to partner together – business, governments and all other players – because the problems that we will face in the next decade will be crucial.  The solution will be global: we need global actions from the diverse stakeholders in our society, because it will be extremely challenging to achieve these important goals in the few years we have.”

Read the report here.