The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
An international intergovernmental initiative designed to strengthen the Rio + 20 impetus in CSR by using a specific instrument/tool : sustainability reporting
Notwithstanding that France has been working since 2001 to develop a pioneering and innovative national institutional framework for sustainability reporting, it has also been a significant actor in the construction of an international legal landscape for sustainability reporting. During the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro on June 20 2012 (Rio + 20), France, at the initiative of the ministry, was one of four founding members –along with South Africa, Brazil and Denmark- of the "Group of Friends of Paragraph 47".
Since its creation, the Group of Friends has welcomed six new member states : Austria, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Switzerland and Norway. Several other countries have expressed interest in joining the Group of Friends.
The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 works at developing company reporting as a strategic tool within corporate sustainability practices, thereby materializing the principles set out in paragraph 47 of the final document of "The Future We Want" conference. The Group has a wider aspiration to advance integrated reporting, meaning corporate financial and non-financial reporting, considering integrated reporting as an essential lever for responsible management practices, the integration of CSR into corporate development strategies and, more generally, critical in the future evolution of any firm.
Within the array of existing sustainability reporting projects the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 stands out as the sole exclusively intergovernmental initiative.
« We acknowledge the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle. We encourage industry, interested governments as well as relevant stakeholders with the support of the UN system, as appropriate, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, taking into account the experiences of already existing frameworks, and paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for capacity building. »
Article 47 of the Rio+20 Declaration
France has continued honor of chairing the group since inception. Succeeding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2013, the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy chairs the Group of Friends of paragraph 47. Robin Edme -Sustainable Finance advisor to the General Commissioner for Sustainable Development (CGDD)- holds the presidency as the Ministry of Ecology’s representative with the support Marine de Carné -CSR ambassador-, representing the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) chair the Secretariat responsibility.
Since April 2015, the chair is supported by regional co-chairs. Both chair and co-chair hold two-year mandates. Members from each geographical region represented in the Group elect the co-chairs. This mode of governance reinforces the organization and representation of the Group in each region, currently Africa, South America and Europe. The co-chairs currently are represented by South Africa, Colombia and France, respectively.
Open to all governments convinced of the importance of corporate transparency in management practices, the group is an experience-sharing platform rallying energies to advance and converge on policies that support and improve sustainability reporting. The Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 provides forum for countries to reflect on best policy options to promote corporate sustainability reporting, including in the financial sector, taking into account each country’s specific aims, ambition, cultural background and pre-existing policy.
- To increase the number of governments with policies or supporting initiatives encouraging corporate sustainability reporting ;
- To encourage the policy effectiveness of sustainability reporting, particularly in the financial sector and for public enterprises and organizations ;
- To maintain and promote the agenda on corporate sustainability reporting at an international level ;
- To mobilize and bring together the stakeholders involved in this field.
In November 2012, the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 adopted a charter. The charter calls to learn from the environmental, social and economic crises of the past decades and to face the major challenges of climate change, of natural resource depletion, of population growth, and of inequality and poverty. Moreover, underpinned by a principle to renew trust between economic actors and society, it promotes a culture of transparency tailored for economic actors.
In addition, the Charter emphasizes the key role that governments must play in promoting corporate sustainability reporting. Governments have access to a wide range of levers : providing relevant regulatory information to shareholders, employees, consumers and civil society, elaborating rules governing the functioning of stock exchanges, implementing public procurement provisions, developing laws for safety and health protection, financial regulation, political and consultative processes, institutional social and civil dialogue improve leadership amongst key actors beyond the legal, and regulatory standards.
Each Government chooses the most relevant policy tools applicable to its culture, economy, level of development, scope and usual modes of intervention.
A source of baseline information on sustainability reporting : The "FAQ" of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
At an early stage, the Group wanted to build upon the experience and expertise of its members and stakeholder to provide answers on the definition of sustainability reporting, the state of current policies, current initiatives and best practices, as well as future opportunities for the development of corporate sustainability reporting.
This is the purpose of its publication : FAQ "Frequently Asked Questions on Corporate Sustainability Reporting"
To date, the Group has contributed to the field of sustainability reporting using two types of publications :
- Working papers, which are reports of early exploratory discussions ;
- Reports (available to the public)
Walking the talk - Leading by Example through State-Owned Enterprise/Public Agency Reporting, issued in November 2014. This Working paper suggests that sustainability reporting of public companies encourages the development of reporting in the private sector. After providing an overview of key initiatives at national level, it analyzes the current state of reporting in companies and public bodies in certain Members of the group. The examples of China and Sweden are then developed because their regulation specifically targets SOEs.
The first report, Evaluating National Public Policies on Corporate Sustainability Reporting, is to be officially launched in November 2015. This report analyses the sustainability reporting policies and regulations of five Group Members (South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Denmark and France) through an analytical framework specifically designed for the intent of this study. This publication, unique at international level, aims to assist Governments to create an enabling environment for corporate sustainability reporting through 16 key recommendations.
The second report, to be published by the first quarter of 2016, will cover the same subject but focused exclusively on the financial sector. This study plans to present a panorama of the intergovernmental initiatives in the field of sustainability reporting targeting the financial sector. This report analyzes public policies in eight of the Group’s Member States and complements the analysis with an overview of existing policies in non-member countries which excel for their transparency in the sustainability of the financial sector. Finally, it describes examples of state-owned financial institutions good practices.
- French legislation on sustainability reporting as of 1 September 2015 (French)
- Overview of policies on sustainability reporting, Carrots & Sticks, GRI, 2013
- The Charter of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
- Organizational Guidelines for the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
Policies and initiatives
- French legislation on sustainability reporting as of June 2016 (English) (PDF - 199 Ko)
- Overview of policies on sustainability reporting, Carrots & Sticks, GRI, 2016
- Walking the talk - Leading by Example through State-Owned Enterprise/Public Agency Reporting
- Evaluating national policies on corporate sustainability reporting (PDF - 5634 Ko)
- Frequently asked questions on corporate sustainability reporting (PDF - 3348 Ko)
- 12 novembre 2015 - Contribution of the Group of Friends to the IAEG: SDG's indicator 12.6.1 (PDF - 368 Ko)
- 4 December 2013 - Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 engagement at 2nd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights
- 18 November 2013 - Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 welcomes Austria, Switzerland as new Members
- 29 May 2013 - Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 adopts its Work Plan - 21–24 May Meetings, Amsterdam
- 24 April 2013 - Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 welcomes Colombia, appoints France as Chair
- 13 February 2013 - Norway Joins Group of Friends of Paragraph 47
- 7 November 2012 - GoF47 Charter Published
- 20 June 2012 - Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 Formed
- Robin Edme, Senior Advisor Sustainable Finance
Office of the Commissioner General for Sustainable Development
Phone: + 33 (0)220.127.116.11.63 / + 33 (0)18.104.22.168.53