1.1 An essential element of GNI’s accountability framework is assessments of each participating company’s compliance with the Principles and Implementation Guidelines undertaken by independent assessors. The assessment process is in two parts:
- Self-reporting from the companies to GNI after one year of membership
- An independent assessment of each company member held every two to three years covering both a process review and including the review of specific cases or examples
1.2 The Assessment Process:
1.2.1 Limits on Disclosure: GNI recognizes that companies may be prevented from disclosing information by law, or may choose not to disclose information in order to preserve attorney-client privilege or protect trade secrets. At the same time, the GNI recognizes that assessors will require a reasonable level of information in order to accomplish their assessment. Among other things, GNI expects the assessors to indicate or otherwise comment where the assessor could not access information due to a company’s withholding of such information, and the withholding of that information affected the assessor’s ability to evaluate the company’s compliance with the Principles. Each company will be required to identify limitations on access to information, if any, to the independent assessor with as much specificity as is practicable.
1.2.2 Determining Compliance: It is the role of the GNI Board to review the company assessment and to conclude whether the GNI member company is making good faith efforts to implement the Principles with improvement over time. The GNI’s evaluation of compliance by participating companies will be based on an assessment of the totality of a company’s record during the assessment phase to put into operation the Principles and the Implementation Guidelines. The GNI’s evaluation of compliance will take into account the fact that participating companies will be different sizes and have different business models, circumstances, markets, products, and services, etc. The determination of compliance will be based on a review of each company’s internal systems, processes, and activities, including how the company has acted in specific cases that implicate the Principles and Implementation Guidelines.
1.2.3 Corrective Action Steps: Where a particular compliance problem or pattern of problems is identified in a final assessor’s report that has been submitted to the Board, the participating company will develop and implement a corrective action plan to remedy the identified problems and report those steps at specified intervals to the Executive Director. The corrective action plan will include measurements for achieving the intended outcomes and anticipated timeline for completion. During the creation of a corrective action plan, the Executive Director and/or relevant GNI staff or members may provide advice to the company to promote a successful remedy.
1.2.4 Special Review: If a company does not meet the participation criteria, is not in compliance, or has failed to take corrective action steps to address problems previously identified in an assessment report or otherwise, the Board may place that company under special review to permit the Board to evaluate that company’s compliance further. The Board evaluates candidates for special review, and the nature of the review necessary, on a case-by- case basis.
The special review will occur on the following terms::
- The term of the review is 120 days, unless the Board determines that the company has achieved compliance before the 120-day period has expired.
- During the term of the special review, the company shall take all necessary actions to achieve compliance.
- The Board may extend the special-review term for as long as is needed for the company to effectively address the identified problems, if the Board concludes that an extension of the special-review term is appropriate.
1.3 Reporting on Assessments:
1.3.1 Reporting is an integral part of participation in the GNI, and will:
- Provide the basis of shared learning
- Inform independent assessments of adherence to the Principles
- Enable regular communications with the public
1.3.2 Independent Assessor Reporting to the GNI: At the conclusion of each assessment, and using a reporting format agreed upon by the Board, the independent assessor will prepare a detailed report that summarizes the assessment, the relevant facts, corrective action plans (if any), and recommendations for improvement. This report will contain a qualitative evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement in the processes the company has put in place to implement the Principles and a summary of conclusions for the GNI. Each company being assessed commits to fully meet the assessment requirement in time, including the delivery of the assessment report.
1.3.3 GNI Reporting to the Public: Following the completion of independent assessments of member companies, GNI will report publicly on the outcome of the assessments including:
- A summary of the progress made by GNI and member companies
- Collective lessons learned regarding the Principles and Implementation Guidelines, including examples of the types of requests received
- Information required to improve the understanding of threats to freedom of expression and privacy across different sectors, geographies, legal systems, and cultural traditions
- For each participating company undergoing an assessment that year, the GNI Board’s compliant or non-compliant decision
1.3.4 Company Reporting to the Public: Using a format of their own choosing, each participating company will within six months after the publication of the GNI public assessment report, communicate to the public about the outcome of their assessment.