Sweden Mandates Sustainability Reporting

Sweden is taking a step towards advancing sustainable business practices that no other country in the world has yet made.

The Swedish government announced earlier this week that in an effort to improve sustainability performance and ensure the transparent use of public money, all state-owned companies will have to file an annual sustainability report before March 31 of each year, beginning in 2009.

The Swedish Government Office administers 55 companies or groups, of which 41 are wholly owned and 14 partly owned by the state.

The state is the largest owner on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, and its companies, which have an assessed value of SEK 675 billion, employ approximately 190,000 people.

State-owned companies include Telia Sonera, a telecommunications provider; Svenska Spel, a gaming company; and SJ, Swedish railways.

The yearly reports will based on guidelines created by the Global Reporting Initiative, which is perhaps the most recognized global standard for sustainability reporting.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has developed an international network with thousands of members from business, civil society, labor, and professional institutions to create the content of its Reporting Framework. GRI hopes that reporting on economic, environmental and social performance will one day be routine for organizations worldwide–comparable to financial reporting.

Mervyn King, Chairman of the GRI Board of Directors says the Swedish government has chosen to take leadership on sustainability reporting that will greatly benefit its companies.

“Swedish state-owned companies will have at once an excellent internal management tool and the most widely recognized external reporting framework. The users of the information will have a more informed assessment of these companies’ performances. It will also enhance their brand, reputation, marketplace differentiation from other companies and will give them a competitive edge over companies not reporting.”

King also says the international market rewards companies that address the impacts their operations have on the economic and environmental life of the community in which they operate.

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