OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Sustainability Ratios

The business world uses ratios to evaluate and compare companies. Clear sustainability ratios, based on the widely-used sustainability reporting standards & reports, will help identify & inspire businesses and make 'world benefit' more tangible.

Photo of DeletedUser
3 5

Written by DeletedUser

Sustainable reporting standards are already used globally. The most widely-used standards of the Global Reporting Initiative, for example, are utilized by almost 5,000 businesses globally. Currently the GRI's database holds more than 10,000 reports (which resemble financial statements). 

To make the reports more accessible and allow for comparison,  Sustainability Ratios can be useful. Once these ratios are defined, the next steps could be to:

1 ) Create software to extract data and calculate sustainability ratios
The ratios could be supported by data visualisation tools (e.g. charts, maps, images) in order to better understand ratios and compare businesses.

2) Educate the business community & public on Sustainability Ratios
Start with business schools, think tanks and business media.

3) Develop apps for smartphones
Consumers can figure the sustainability ratios (or nondisclosure) into their purchase decisions, which may incentivize  companies to innovate for world benefit.

How does your concept celebrate, identify or inspire for-profit businesses that act as agents of world benefit?

The concept is addressing the practical challenge of identifying businesses that innovate for world benefit. The quantitative nature and global use of the sustainable reporting standards allow for the creation of objective standards (-> ratios). The extensive data set makes the identification and comparison of businesses more rigorous by adding a quantitative evaluation tool. This will transform the mostly qualitative method of picking case-studies or best practices into a mixed approach (qualitative & quantitative).

How will your concept help us create or leverage stories of world benefit that are sticky and shareable?

The Sustainability Ratios are designed for identification, comparison and evaluation of businesses. Moreover, the data visualization tools will help people to understand the ratios and to retain an visual concept of sustainability. Both ratios & visuals can be shared easily (-> digital communication) and can communicate well to numerical & visual thinkers.

What will it take to scale your concept so that its reach is global and widespread?

Since the GRIs database is free to the public, there should be no problem working with the organization to obtain data. Developing software, apps and data visualization tools, should be a manageable task. Challenges: 1) Depending on the format of the data and the function of the database, there could be a a challenge retrieving the data. 2) Educating the business community & public about the ratios is the real challenge. A first start could be business schools in the U.S, think tanks and later the business media. Further the smartphone app is intended to create awareness among customers. Also, their purchasing decisions could create a feedback loop to businesses.


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Christoph - great concept - I think adopting GRI standards is one way of making sustainability concepts uniform across industries. One issue is getting companies to "buy-in" and actually report reputable information regarding their sustainability practices/ratios. There is a nonprofit group called "One Report" that is attempting to integrate sustainability reporting with financial reporting. Obviously this does not address private companies, as only publicly traded ones are required to publish their financial results, but it is a step in the right direction towards transparency and greater knowledge of sustainability practices/ratios.

Photo of DeletedUser


Thanks Tom. I had a look on the "One Report" website and saw the GRI logo as well as the Global Compact logo. I suppose these organisations are working together ...

View all comments