Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

Summary

  • The GRI was established in 1997 in association with the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The GRI is the most widely used sustainability reporting standard.
  • In 2016, the GRI guidelines were updated to also include UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Objectives

  1. To advance the practice of sustainable reporting for organisations.
  2. To help organisations identify their impact on the environment, the economy and society and disclose those impacts publicly.
  3. To allow organisations to become more transparent in order to create a sustainable future.

GRI standards

The sustainability reporting process begins with the organisation identifying relevant topics to report on.

The GRI standards currently encompass “universal standards” and “topic standards”. Each of the standards provide obligatory instructions, recommendations and requirements.

Universal standard

Foundation: this sets out the reporting principles and guidelines that incorporate context, materiality, completeness and stakeholder inclusiveness. Additionally, guidelines are included for preparing the sustainability report under GRI standards.

General disclosures: this is a specification that allows organisations to provide contextual information regarding strategy, governance and stakeholder engagement.

Management approach: this is designed to be used with each material topic in a sustainability report, whether financial or non-financial, to control major risks and opportunities

Topic standard

The topic standard contains disclosures that an organisation can use to account for its impact in relation to its material topic, and how it manages these impacts. For example, an organisation can use the GRI standard on water to report on the impacts it has on the environment because of its water withdrawal and how it manages these impacts.

This approach of identifying and reporting on material topics helps organisations to create sustainability reports that focus on the impact of their activities and operations.