GRI helps businesses and governments worldwide understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, governance and social wellbeing. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards are developed with multi-stakeholder contributions and rooted in the public interest.

GRI is now the most widely used sustainability reporting framework. There are four key elements in the framework:

  1. Sustainability reporting guidelines (the Standards) are the cornerstone of the framework.  These consist of Principles for defining report content and ensuring the quality of reported information. They also include Standard Disclosures made up of performance indicators and other disclosure items, as well as guidance on specific technical topics in reporting.
  2. Indicator protocols exist for each of the performance indicators contained in the Guidelines. These protocols provide definitions, compilation guidance, and other information to assist report writers and to ensure consistency in the interpretation of the performance indicators. Users of the Guidelines should also use the Indicator Protocols.
  3. Sector supplements complement the Guidelines with interpretations and guidance on how to apply them in a given sector, and include sector-specific performance indicators. Applicable sector supplements should be used in addition to rather than in place of the Guidelines.
  4. Technical protocols are created to provide guidance on issues in reporting, such as setting the report boundary. They are designed to be used in conjunction with the Guidelines and sector supplements and cover issues that face most organisations during the reporting process.

While the GRI  Standards seek to enhance comparability between reports through encouraging the use of common indicators, it can also incorporate flexibility so that organisations can take steps to reflect the context in which they operate. They can also be used with a more informal approach consistent with organisation’s capacity. The organisation may choose to cover only some of the content in working towards improving their reporting. With this in mind, organisations are also asked to clearly indicate how they have used the GRI Standards and in particular, the core indicators. With time and practice, organisations are encouraged to move gradually towards more comprehensive reporting built on the content of the GRI framework.

Potential benefits

  • The GRI Standards provide a holistic framework that addresses broad performance – social, environmental and economic – as to how an organisation is reporting to stakeholders.
  • They guide an organisation’s approach to ‘proving’ its impact.
  • GRI is used widely internationally as a generally accepted reporting framework and, as such, provides a method for increased comparability.
  • Organisations can use GRI reporting to help measure and benchmark performance, both against their own targets and externally. Management can use the GRI indicators to encourage employees to understand and contribute to progressively better performance.
  • The Standards can be used in different sectors and geographical contexts.
  • The Standards support and integrate other tools such as Social Accounting and the AA1000 Series

Potential limitations

  • Adhering to the Standards can be labour intensive and full reporting may represent a challenge for smaller organisations.
  • They provide guidance, but not accreditation, a mark or external evaluation unless combined with other tools, such as an assurance standard.
  • Their main focus is ‘sustainability’, e.g. reporting external impact but not necessarily focusing on positive outcomes or impacts.

What resources are needed?

Leadership

To adhere to the GRI Standards, an organisation will need to collect information and performance across the whole organisation and therefore it requires the leadership and commitment of management and senior staff members.

Proficiencies or skills

Skills and experience with developing reports and impact assessment or data collection would be helpful, as would experience of other social research methods.

Staff time

Significant time will be required to compile, analyse and write up information and implement action. Some flexibility exists depending on whether the organisation uses all or part of the Standards.

Courses, support, and information

The website www.globalreporting.org  includes a large amount of information including the downloadable G3 guidelines, forums, publications, help and information.


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