As you already learned at the DQS Sustainability Conference, the G4 Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are being replaced by the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards. The new standards were published on October 19, 2016 and can be used as a basis for sustainability reporting with immediate effect. We have compiled an overview of the most important changes for you here.

The G4 Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative are the most widely used sustainability reporting framework worldwide, with several thousand reporting organizations in over 90 countries. The new GRI Standards builds on this success: The principles and requirements of G4 are carried over unchanged in the new standards. At the same time, changes in structure and presentation make them much more user-friendly. Organizations that already report according to G4 should therefore have no difficulty switching to the new version.

From G4 to the GRI Standards: Structural changes

In order to respond more quickly and flexibly to changing stakeholder expectations, GRI has chosen to structure the Guidelines as a series of modularly composed standards. This allows GRI to adjust individual standards at regular intervals without having to update the entire framework.

The framework is now composed of 3 general standards and 33 topic-specific standards. A sustainability report according to the GRI standards is therefore a report that complies with the requirements of the three general standards as well as containing disclosures on those topics that are material to an understanding of sustainability performance.

Companies that only wish to provide information on certain topics now have the option of reporting in accordance with a single selected standard. For example, if a company wants to report on human rights compliance without addressing other topics, it can now use the topic-specific standard without referring to the overall framework.

Increasing user-friendliness

One of the priorities in the revision was to simplify the GRI terminology, which sometimes takes some getting used to, as well as to increase readability. A commendable feature of the new standards is the consistent distinction between "Requirements" (mandatory requirements), "Recommendations" (recommendations) and "Guidance " (valuable background information).

Industry-specific information no longer required

As with G4, organizations can indicate that the report complies with the GRI requirements ("in accordance"). This principle remains unchanged: depending on the scope of the information, there are still the variants "in accordance - core" and "in accordance - comprehensive".

However, one change should be noted: The sector-specific disclosures are no longer necessary to report "in accordance", but serve as an aid to identify the material sustainability aspects.

The GRI Standards & the EU Directive on the Disclosure of Non-Financial
Information

In connection with the upcoming CSR reporting requirements it should also be mentioned that the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards are suitable for meeting legal requirements. However, this is not new: Sustainability reports according to the G4 guidelines also generally meet the legal requirements.

Report verification:

  • Increases trust and credibility
  • Shows your stakeholders that you place a high value on transparency
  • Improves data quality
  • Reduces risks through early identification of problems

Timeline & Transition

The GRI Standards were endorsed by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) in August 2016. So nothing stands in the way of the planned publication in mid-October 2016. GRI recommends that reporting organizations switch to the GRI Standards as soon as possible. However, it is still possible to report according to G4 until June 2018. From July 1, 2018, the use of the new standards will then be mandatory if one wishes to report "in accordance".

The report audit

Although GRI has already announced that it will be taking a closer look at the Report audit, the changeover to the GRI standards does not yet change anything: An audit by an independent third party such as DQS is still not mandatory, but is recommended in order to ensure the credibility of the information disclosed.

DQS CFS GmbH is an AA1000-licensed provider of sustainability report verification. For further information on the verification process, please contact us. 

Author
Dr. Thijs Willaert

Dr. Thijs Willaert is Head of Marketing & Communications for the Sustainability and Food Safety segments. He is also an auditor for the external audit of sustainability reports. His areas of interest include sustainability management, sustainable procurement, and the digitalization of the audit landscape.

Loading...