The Practical Wisdom behind the GRI

  • Laura Sasse-WerhahnEmail author
Original Research


In an effort to meet growing stakeholder demands for transparency, accountability, and responsibility, many large organizations globally have voluntarily adopted the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. Moreover, triggered by recent management transgressions, the ancient virtue of practical wisdom (phronesis) has gained increased attention from management scholars, who argue that the Aristotelian concept, with its interdisciplinary nature, has the capacity of turning management back into a holistic, contextual, and virtue-orientated practice. Especially the fact that practical wisdom is firmly based on normative values, coupled with the emphasis on experience and practice, makes it well suited as a leitmotif for sustainable and responsible management. This conceptual paper builds on the link between practical wisdom and sustainability. I argue that the GRI may be regarded as an example of procedural practical wisdom in the context of sustainability reporting, specifically in terms of its emphasis on the holistic and situational dimensions, articulated through the concepts of materiality analysis and stakeholder dialogue. Practical implications, limitations, and avenues for further research are discussed.


Sustainability reporting Corporate responsibility Practical wisdom GRI 



I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their very useful suggestions on a previous draft. The comments received are greatly appreciated.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and Business AdministrationCatholic University of Eichstätt-IngolstadtEichstättGermany

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