As of October 19, 2016, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has introduced its latest guidelines – the most recognized set of sustainability reporting disclosures.
The updated GRI Standards, introduce a new structure, easier language, and resources for flexible reporting. Companies using the previous ‘G4’ interaction of standards will need to have been switched by June 30th, 2018.
What’s new and what’s the same?
Although the new standards are similar to G4, there are some major changes. The focus is to create an easier future-proof structure. The G4 standards’ new concepts, the two “in accordance” levels and the emphasis on reporting only material topics, has not changed. Actually, the GRI determined 80% of the content from the G4 training course is still applicable to the updated standards.
The main change is the new standards structure. The G4 Reporting Principles and Standard Disclosures and the G4 Implementation Manual is now structured as a set of “Standards”; 3 universal and 33 specific documents, divided into Economic, Environmental, and Social.
Despite these changes, companies still report on disclosures, define material topics, and report on specific disclosures and management approaches.
They broke up the documents in an attempt to allow topic-specific Standards to be updated without changing the rest of the set and so that companies who want to produce reports on specific material topics can that are “GRI-referenced”. There is now no distinction between GRI “aspects” and “topics” with “topic” as the common term. “Disclosure” is now any qualitative or quantitative disclosure in a report, removing distinction “indicators”.
The GRI index is now to include all the topics which you consider to be material, not considering topic-specific Standards defined by GRI, meaning that if you’re reporting on a material topic with no GRI guidance, you must include it in your index.
GRI’s sector disclosures, are now no longer mandatory under the GRI Standards, allowing companies to report only against disclosures of material to their impacts and stakeholders.
What can I do?
You should be investing in training and knowledge-building and switch fully to the current Standards
GRI also offers a spreadsheet tool to help compare current G4 disclosures against the new Standards.
It is important to stay up to date and take advantage of these new reporting tools. Through its modular interrelated structure, companies can now report a dynamic range of their economic, environmental and social impacts. Preparing a report using the GRI Standards provides a fully inclusive picture of an organization’s material topics, related impacts, and the methods used to manage such impacts. This allows companies to accurately collect data and improve their Corporate Social Responsibility in meaningful ways.
This makes understanding and investing in training to effectively use GRI standards is important for every company.