January 20, 2024
An Introduction to the GRI Standards

What is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)?

GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) is an independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing them with a global common language to communicate those impacts.

Why is the GRI gaining prominence?

  • Reporting with impact: Helps an organization show impact made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thereby attracting investor attention and increasing reputation with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities it operates in. 
  • Independent, multi-stakeholder credibility: GRI enables businesses, investors, policymakers, employees and civil society to engage in dialogue and make decisions that support inclusive sustainable development.
  • Reflecting intergovernmental expectations: The GRI Standards are developed in-line with internationally established norms, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct and International Labour Standards. 
  • Global reporting: The GRI standards are truly global and available in 12 languages, facilitating standardized, comparable data and benchmarking opportunities on a global scale. Any organization  large or small, private, or public regardless of sector or location  can use the GRI Standards to report on their impacts.
  • Full ESG transparency: The GRI Standards allows organisations to identify, prioritize and be transparent on its impacts on the economy, environment, and people. True impact reporting goes beyond enterprise value only; it is an instrument to enhance socio-economic cohesion, environmental and societal impact.
  • Tried and tested standards: GRI offers a full package of widely used and validated standards. With over 10,000 reporting organizations, covering more than 100 countries and 73% of the world's 250 largest companies the GRI standards are the most widely adopted sustainability reporting standards in the world.

Who uses the GRI Standards and who uses the reported information?

Any organization, large or small, public or private, from any sector or location, can use the GRI Standards. Reporters, stakeholders, and other information users draw on the Standards.

Reporters within an organization use the Standards to report on the organization�s impacts in a credible way that is comparable over time and in relation to other organizations. The Standards also help stakeholders and other information users understand what is expected from an organization to report on and use the information published by organizations in various ways.

The Structure of the GRI Standards:

  • The GRI Standards are a modular system comprising three series of Standards: the GRI Universal Standards, the GRI Sector Standards, and the GRI Topic Standards.
  • The Standards contain disclosures, which provide a structured means for an organization to report information about itself and its impacts. 
  • The disclosures can have requirements and can also include recommendations. Requirements list the information an organization must report or instructions it must comply with and report in accordance with the GRI Standards. Recommendations indicate that certain information, or a particular course of action, is encouraged though not compulsory.
  • Guidance to facilitate understanding can include background information, explanations, and examples.

GRI Universal Standards: 

The GRI Universal Standards apply to all organizations, and consist of the following:

GRI 1: Foundation 2021 (GRI 1) 

It outlines the purpose of the GRI Standards, clarifies critical concepts, and explains how to use the Standards. It lists the requirements that an organization must comply with to report in accordance with the GRI Standards. It also specifies the principles such as accuracy, balance, and verifiability fundamental to good-quality reporting.

GRI 2: General Disclosures 2021 (GRI 2)

It contains disclosures relating to details about an organization's structure and reporting practices; activities and workers; governance; strategy; policies; practices; and stakeholder engagement. These give insight into the organization's profile and scale, and help in providing a context for understanding an organization's impacts.

GRI 3: Material Topics 2021 (GRI 3) 

It explains the steps by which an organization can determine the topics most relevant to its impacts, its material topics, and describes how the Sector Standards are used in this process. It also contains disclosures for reporting its list of material topics; the process by which the organization has determined its material topics; and how it manages each topic.

GRI Sector Standards:

The GRI Sector Standards intend to increase the quality, completeness, and consistency of reporting by organizations. Standards will be developed for 40 sectors, starting with those with the highest impact, such as oil and gas, agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing.

The Standards list topics that are likely to be material for most organizations in a given sector, and indicate relevant disclosures to report on these topics. If an applicable Sector Standard is available, an organization is obliged to use it when reporting with the GRI Standards.

GRI Topic Standards:

The GRI Topic Standards contain disclosures for providing information on topics. Examples include Standards on waste, occupational health and safety, and tax. Each Standard incorporates an overview of the topic and disclosures specific to the topic and how an organization manages its associated impacts. An organization selects those Topic Standards that correspond to the material topics it has determined and uses them for reporting.

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