Reporting for Sustainability – GRI replaces G4 Guidelines with new GRI Standards
The organization responsible for developing one of the most respected sustainability reporting frameworks, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), introduced a new standard soberly entitled “GRI Standards” to replace the G4 Guidelines launched in 2013.
The implications are twofold: first, the main goal of the modifications is to reorganize existing content to facilitate the harmonization of the requirements with other standards. Second, the GRI Standards simplifies the language to clarify some concepts and make the framework more accessible.
Aligning reporting requirements with other frameworks dealing with sustainability issues such as the CDP Climate Change and Water questionnaires, or the UN Global Compact with the SDG Compass framework, improves consistency and comparability but also “avoids duplication of disclosure effort”. The GRI continues the harmonization effort initiated with the G4 Guidelines by providing linkage documents highlighting the connections between the GRI Standards and other frameworks and initiatives. This should enable organizations to fulfill multiple reporting requirements using the GRI Standards.
In Europe, harmonization has become even more critical with the introduction in 2017 of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). Under the new legislation, companies with more than 500 employees will be required to provide shareholders and other stakeholders with a meaningful, comprehensive view of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance. Despite critics attacking the directive for its loose definition of ESG and lack of target-setting requirements, a revised version scheduled for 2018 is expected to raise the bar. In this context, the new GRI Standards also offers a solution for all entities to comply with the European legislation through a specific linkage document available here.
Companies already using the G4 guidelines will see no difference in terms of disclosures. Only some disclosure names have been updated while others have been moved to different sections. To assist sustainability reporting professionals transitioning from the G4 logic to the GRI Standards, GRI provides a mapping tool in the form of a spreadsheet available here.
On the other hand, all the reporting principles remain in place. Defining report content still depends on stakeholder inclusiveness, sustainability context, materiality and completeness while defining report quality requires accuracy, balance, clarity, comparability, reliability and timeliness of information.
Finally, all sector supplements developed under G3 and G3.1 and re-organized for use with G4 Guidelines remain valid and are recommended for use when reporting with the GRI Standards. GRI does plan to update and expand the Sector Disclosures starting in 2017.
All entities are encouraged to become familiar with and adopt the GRI Standards for their next sustainability report but at the latest by 1 July 2018 when G4 Guidelines will be officially phased out.
For more information:
GRI Standards page: https://www.globalreporting.org/standards
Recorded webinar: Introducing the GRI Standards