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GRI Launches World’s First Global Standards for Sustainability Reporting

Image credit: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) released new global sustainability reporting standards, which it says will enhance corporate transparency worldwide. The standards give companies a common language for disclosing non-financial information, and will help firms “make better decisions” and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or Global Goals).

The GRI Standards are the latest evolution of GRI’s reporting disclosures, and feature an improved format and new modular structure over the GRI G4 Guidelines on which they are based. The G4 Guidelines, which are currently the world’s most widely-used sustainability reporting disclosures, will be phased out by July 1, 2018, to be definitively replaced by the new GRI Standards.

“The Standards are more straightforward, making them accessible to potentially millions of businesses worldwide,” said GRI Interim Chief Executive Eric Hespenheide. “Sustainability reporting, using the GRI Standards, is the best way for a company to disclose its economic, environmental and social impacts, thus providing insights into its contributions – positive or negative – toward sustainable development.”





GRI's Chelsea Reinhardt
will discuss
Transitioning to
the new
GRI Global Standards

at New Metrics '16.

The new Standards are a set of 36 modular Standards that facilitate corporate reporting on topics such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use, and labor practices. The new format allows GRI to update individual topics based on market and sustainability needs, without requiring revisions to the entire set of GRI Standards. The GRI Standards are centered on materiality – focusing on the topics that represent the most significant impacts of the organization and are most important to organizations’ stakeholders – which supports sustainability reporting that is tailored to each individual company. Companies will be able to report in accordance with the GRI Standards at Core or Comprehensive level, or disclose individual topics to meet specific reporting needs.

With input from business, labor, government, investors, civil society, academia and sustainability practitioners, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), a fully independent standard-setting body, developed the GRI Standards in the public interest. This multi-stakeholder process is a critical element of GRI’s commitment to making sustainability considerations integral to every company's decision-making process.

“The GRI Standards empower companies to effectively understand and communicate their environmental and social impacts,” said Vice Chair of the GSSB Michael Nugent. “Collaborating across the public and private sector, we designed these standards to guide sustainability reporting for any company, in any industry, for decades to come.”

According to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, 75 percent of senior executives in investment firms agree that a company’s sustainability performance is important to consider when making investment decisions. Most of the world’s biggest companies publish this information, but new research from Corporate Citizenship shows that many organizations are still struggling to address long-term value in their reports. Luckily, GRI says that the new Standards will enable many more organizations – including small companies – to provide investors, consumers, employees and other stakeholders with the performance information they need.


Hannah Furlong is one of Sustainable Brands's Contributing Writers, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]