Sample Assignment - Researching Company Sustainability Strategies

Sample Assignment - Group research using GRI indicators

Group Research Project (35%) For this assignment you will break into groups of 2 to 3 and evaluate the social responsibility strategy of a publicly held company of your choosing. As part of this project you will identify the company’s approach to sustainability, identify why the company has adopted the strategy and how it is implementing it, assess how the strategy furthers the competitive advantage of the firm (or not), and then critique the company’s strategy on its performance. Each individual will research 1 company report according to the metrics on the class’ WikiRate Project page (see images below, metrics to be pre-selected by instructor with support from WikiRate team), and check values of a fellow student’s company report research (there is a mechanism on WikiRate for “double-checking” metric values). Grades will be based on a written paper (25%) and a presentation (10%).

Learning Objectives

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of corporate social responsibility strategies, how they are applied, tracked and reported, and why they are important.

  2. Understand how companies use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators and report data.

  3. Discuss alternative approaches for evaluating the effectiveness of different strategies

  4. Contribute research to a global, public resource where the data students collect is open and available for others to use in company research and analysis.

For Professors:

  • Preparation time: ½ - 1 class, choosing which metrics are relevant by industry can be done by lecturer prior to the assignment and coordinated with WikiRate team. Which method you choose will determine the activity’s length.

  • Class time: 1-2 hours. We suggest using one class period for groups to begin their research. While individuals conduct their research, they will run into questions that they can then troubleshoot with their group.

  • Student research time (in or outside of class): 2-4 hours, depending on the number of metrics, and types of company reports selected.*

  • Choose 10 or more relevant metrics based on the GRI's G4 specification for students to follow in their research.

This kind of hands-on research with companies' reporting output gets students questioning and learning about what companies find material, differences in reporting approaches, data comparability and uses of the data. The exercise also produces publicly accessible data that can be analysed and included in ratings - by the students themselves, and also by other researchers.

*Time estimations are generalised and can be expanded or contracted depending on number of metrics being researched and the assignment expectations.