Last Sunday, the GRI transition stage of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) regarding its adjusted reporting standard expired. The de facto standard for sustainability reporting is finally entering a new stage. For companies reporting their non-financial information with GRI, since 1 July 2018 it is no longer possible to publish a sustainability report in accordance with G4 requirements. Instead, they are now required to adapt their GRI sustainability report to the requirements of the modular GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards).
As a reminder – what are the main changes resulting from the transition to GRI standards?
- Modularity: in terms of content, the GRI standards have hardly been changed compared to the G4 guidelines. Rather, it is a modular restructuring with individual standards. These are three universal standards (101, 102 and 103) with general information and 33 thematic standards (200, 300 and 400 series) with relation to economic, ecological and social aspects (see Fig. 1).
- New option: Organizations can continue to create a report ‘in accordance’ according to the ‘core’ or ‘comprehensive’ option (old) or now only reference a respective topic-specific standard (so-called ‘GRI-reference claim’, e. g. occupational health & safety)
- The management approach, which declares how a specific sustainability topic is managed in the company, is now summarized within a single module / standard (GRI 103)
- Key terms and the most important content (e. g. boundaries) are explained better than in GRI G4. In addition, the vocabulary has been simplified
- Numerical changes (e. g. G4-EN28 is now GRI 301-3: reclaimed products and their packaging materials)
Fig. 1: Overview of the modular structure of the GRI Standards (Source: GRI Standards Download Center)
What should companies be prepared for?
Companies that prepare their GRI sustainability report for 2018 or for the upcoming years must now comply with the GRI Standards. A report referencing G4 will not be accepted by the initiative anymore. GRI will also provide no further support related to G4 (e. g. Content Index Services, SDG Mapping, Materiality Disclosure). GRI now offers such services only in conjunction with the modular GRI Standards (see GRI news center). Companies that already have published a sustainability report in alignment with the GRI Standards will benefit from the specific handling for future reports. For companies that have not yet dealt with this, however, the change due to the manageable changes in content should not be a major hurdle. Even after the expiration of the GRI transition stage help will be provided by various resources (see below).
Resources and information
After the GRI transition stage, various support materials are still available that provide help for the preparation of a sustainability report according to GRI. Here are some of them listed:
- GRI Support for sustainability reporting
- Material changes from G4 to GRI Standards
- Mapping-Guide (G4 to GRI Standards)
- Download of the GRI Standards
- DFGE-Blog from the 21. October 2016
Appraisement and support by the DFGE
The DFGE evaluates the changeover to the GRI Standards as positive. They provide a more flexible and simplified handling for reporting companies within the complex field of sustainability reporting. High relevance should always be attached to the materiality analysis and matrix. In priority, this should represent topics that reflect the company’s significant economic, ecological and social impacts on society or topics that significantly influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders (see GRI 101, p. 10). In practice, however, this intention of GRI is often not taken into account or is not considered in an appropriate way. The involvement of the stakeholders in form of a real dialogue within the materiality process can develop enormous potential and can increase the sustainability performance of a company significantly.
If your company intends to publish a sustainability report in accordance with GRI, the DFGE supports you with individual services and packages. If you need further information, please contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 08192-99733-20.