Cross-linked: CR reporting evolved.

Thanks to better networking and cross-linking, companies can increase the transparency of their sustainability reports

Thanks to better networking and cross-linking, companies can increase the transparency of their sustainability reports. In many online reports, however, this potential has not yet been fully exploited – for instance in the case of the GRI index.

The Internet is in many aspects perfectly suited for sustainability reporting. No other medium is able to meet the needs of such heterogeneous user groups more efficiently; no other medium provides more room for dialogue and follow-up communication; and even the long-term developments of sustainable business activities can be presented in a particularly transparent manner. The merits of these and other benefits keep convincing more and more companies: more than two-thirds of all DAX 30 companies already offer an HTML version of their sustainability reports – and more and more of them no longer even publish a print version.

Linking is one of the key potentials of the Internet, but it is still not fully exploited. In online reporting, it can be considered as the golden thread of reception: Since web content is used selectively and not in a linear manner, hyperlinks provide for better orientation. In addition, cross-linking contents can increase the quality of information given on individual pages of the report. It brings together what actually belongs together, especially in the case of sustainability reports, and reveals the interdependencies between social, ecological and economic factors. An elaborate linking concept is therefore a decisive quality factor in online reporting.

Based on the idea of cross-linking, another feature has recently been integrated in several online sustainability reports, namely what is known as GRI backlinking. While online reports usually link from the GRI index to those pages which cover certain GRI indicators, the procedure is now practically reversed. A service box on every single page of the report shows which indicators are mentioned in the relevant text. By means of a script, the required information is automatically extracted from the GRI index without the need to be added manually.

Being the first company among the DAX listings to do so, Linde integrated this feature in its online sustainability report in 2012. Clicking the service box opens a light box with those parts of the GRI table that correspond to the relevant indicators. This approach enhances transparency and adds value for users.


By means of GRI backlinking, all indicators mentioned on a particular page are listed in a box. A mouse click provides additional information from the GRI table. See an example here:


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