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GRI Standards – What do I need to know?

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In April 2016, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced its intention to transition its Guidelines to GRI Standards, which they have named the Sustainability Reporting Standards or SRS.

GRI believes that establishing SRSs as formal standards will allow them to be referenced even more broadly in policy initiatives around the world, supporting greater uptake of credible sustainability reporting. These changes should be of interest to anyone involved in the preparation of sustainability reporting, from first-time reporters to those who are more experienced.

We have reviewed GRI’s proposals and those reporters who are already familiar with the G4 guidelines will find the SRS proposals straightforward. The content from the GRI G4 Guidelines and Implementation Manual will form the basis for the content in GRI Standards, but with an improved structure, format, and presentation.  Although the proposed structure with nearly 40 standards may seem overly complex, GRI’s intention is to enable updates of the individual elements easily, without reissuing the whole set of standards.  The majority of the draft standards are ‘topic’ related, as with the current indicator protocols.

There will be three ‘universal’ standards applicable to all organisations: primarily intended to be used together as a set of standards

·    The Foundation Standard includes the Reporting Principles and ‘in accordance’ criteria. This is the entry point for organisations using GRI Standards.

·    The General Disclosures Standard covers organisational profile, governance, stakeholder engagement, reporting practice, strategy and analysis.

·    The Management Approach Standard includes the disclosure on management approach (DMA) from G4, and may be used with any topic-specific GRI Standard.

There will be approximately 35 ‘topic-specific’ standards based on the Aspects within G4.

Three topic-specific GRI Standards have been released in draft form to date: Emissions, Indirect Economic Impacts and Public Policy. Expect the full list to be broadly in line with the G4 Aspects. Breaking the Aspects down into more topics provides companies with an opportunity to really focus a report on what is material to their business and makes future topic specific updates easier to do without having to revise the entire standard.  

GRI Standards feature clearer distinctions between requirements, denoted by ‘shall’, recommendations denoted by ‘should’, and guidance sections.

As in G4, there are two options for preparing a report in accordance with the GRI Standards: core and comprehensive, depending on the extent to which the standards have been applied. Organisations preparing sustainability report ‘in accordance’ with GRI Standards will use all three universal standards.

Organisations can also use individual GRI Standards or their contents to disclose specific sustainabilityinformation and are required to include a reference in any published materials. This will be called an ‘SRS-referenced claim’.

After a period of public consultation we expect the GRI Standards to be released before the end of 2016. GRI G4 Guidelines will remain in effect for a specific transition period which will be defined by the release date.

To find out about DNV GL’s GRI Standards Gap Assessment service, helping organisations prepare for the upcoming changes to reporting guidelines, please get in touch.

Contact us How we can help you? Phone: + 44 (0) 207 859 4889