This week, I want to share our thoughts on the changes that are coming to the GRI reporting standards. GRI is the most frequently used framework for sustainability reporting (in Mexico more than 90% of the companies that publish sustainability or integrated reports use them to a certain degree). This move is the most significant change to the GRI’s framework since GRI transitioned from providing guidance to setting standards in 2016. Although the new standards won’t be mandatory until January 2023, since many of the 2016 and 2018 standards are still in the process of being revised and updated, we want to share what these changes will look like, and how they may impact sustainability reporting.
What stays the same?
The standards continue to be a modular system built on disclosures, which provide a structured means for an organization to report information about itself and its impacts. These have certain requirements (instructions on what must be provided) and can also include recommendations (best practices, non-compulsory). Guidance to facilitate the company’s understanding is still given, and can include background information, explanations, and examples. The reporting process also remains unchanged, starting with the identification and assessment of impacts, determining material topics, and finally reporting the necessary disclosures.
What is new?
The GRI Standards Framework used to have two different categories of disclosures:
- Universal Standards
- GRI 101 Foundation: Starting point for using the GRI standards
- GRI 102 General Disclosures: To report contextual information about an organization
- GRI 103 Management approach: To report the management approach for each material topic
- Topic-specific Standards
- GRI 200s, 300s, 400s: Tailor-made selection from these specific disclosures to report on each of an organization’s material topics.
This update focused on renovating the Universal Standards to incorporate human rights disclosures, the due diligence concept for the Management Approach, as well as general revisions of the reporting principles, concepts and models of the Foundation and General Disclosure sections. Lastly, a third layer of disclosures focused on industry specific standards was added to the mix (in a similar fashion to what SASB has been doing for a while). This means, the new structure for disclosures categories will be:
- Universal Standards: Apply to all organizations.
- GRI 1: Requirements and principles for using the GRI Standards
- GRI 2: Disclosures about the reporting organization
- GRI 3: Disclosures and guidance to determine and process the organization’s material topics and the disclosure on these.
- Sector Standards: Apply to specific sectors.
- Topic Standards: To report specific information on your material topics.
How will sector-specific standards work?
Sector-specific standards are not entirely new to many corporates. Several frameworks, ratings, and indices already have different disclosures and scoring systems for different sectors. GRI is working on industry standards to cover 40 sectors, starting with those with the highest impact (oil and gas, agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing). The first GRI Sector Standard for Oil and Gas has already been published.
What is the benefit?
GRI intends that through the new Universal Standards, organizations will be better positioned to use their reports to respond to emerging regulatory disclosure needs, such as the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the IFRS plans for enterprise value standards. Furthermore, the new GRI Sector Standards intend to increase the quality, completeness, and consistency of reporting by organizations. Additionally, this new set of standards is aligned with the UN Guiding Principles.
As we have discussed many times before, one of ESG’s biggest drawbacks is the complexity and lack of homogeneous reporting frameworks for organizations. Many standards-setting organisms are trying to fix this, and we think this update to GRI is pretty relevant given how prominent GRI has become in corporate reporting. The IFRS Foundation Trustees also recently announced the creation of a new standard-setting board (the ISSB or International Sustainability Standards Board) which is aligned with the idea of improving sustainability disclosure too. We expect more movement on this front in coming years, and as that happen corporates should be on the look out for any changes that will require changes in their reporting processes.
I hope you found this interesting. As usual, if there is anything we can help you with, or if there is an ESG topic you would like to know more about, please let us know.
CEO, Miranda ESG
Contacts at Miranda Partners