Companies should not fear making mistakes in their sustainability reporting and while this is true for all companies it is particularly the case for SMEs, according to Theresa Fogelberg, GRI’s deputy chief executive.

“[SMEs] should not be afraid, I also say that to big companies but it especially applies to SMEs, You don’t have to have everything perfect before you share what you are doing with the world. Be brave and express your work, put on paper that this is what we are trying to achieve,” she said.

Mistakes are a normal part of the process Fogelberg continued. “Nobody is perfect especially in the beginning, it is a matter of trying and making mistakes, and sometimes being honest about your mistakes, because if you are honest about your mistakes, it shows you are an ethical company and that you are trying to learn from your mistakes. So I would say just start with it and if you have dilemmas or issues that’s normal.”

GRI recently commenced the second phase of the Corporate Sustainability and Reporting for Competitive Business (CSRCB) program, which is run in partnership with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and helps SMEs, in the developing world use sustainability reporting to gain better access to global value chains.

Taking part in sustainability reporting, especially for SMEs, can open up an array of business opportunities, she continued. “We hope we can motivate SMEs that if they want to be part of the larger global economy if they want to be interesting and create and expand their market, then they must take part in sustainability reporting.”

The CSRCB program is being implemented in Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa and Vietnam. SECO is investing more than 5 million Euros into the program, which will run until 2020.

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Phase two of the CSRCB program will entail three distinct program areas:

1. Increasing reporting capacity, by stimulating more reporting by SMEs and giving them the tools and knowledge they need to report in a manner that is focused, transparent and responsive to all of their stakeholders

2. Creating a conducive reporting environment, by enabling smart sustainability policies

3. Fostering demand for sustainability data, by empowering stakeholder groups, such as investors, civil society, governments and the media, to use reported information to hold businesses accountable for their sustainability impacts.

“What we hope to achieve is that in the end a small company if it becomes sustainable does make business and does create more jobs,” Fogelberg said.