A sustainability strategy is only as strong as its ability to drive accountability and transparency. The foundation of any strategy is data.
But knowing what data to communicate can be challenging, which is why many reporting entities use third-party frameworks and standards to guide their disclosure. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world’s most commonly used set of standards for sustainability. As of 2023, 78% of the 250 largest companies in the world by revenue report to GRI. It covers social, environmental, governance and financial impacts — all key inputs for a comprehensive sustainability strategy. Reporting to GRI in your annual sustainability report can also help strengthen your sustainability strategy over time. Here are five reasons why:
1. Your strategy and GRI mutually inform each other
Since GRI disclosures broadly cover many of the topics that will likely be material to your company (energy, waste, occupational health & safety, human rights, etc.) it can serve as a guide to determine what strategic steps need to be taken to disclose best-practice data. The opposite is also true. Your strategy will guide your GRI disclosure via what you deem material. By enhancing the transparency of your strategy through improved GRI disclosure, you are concurrently strengthening it.
2. GRI helps identify data, policy, and management gaps
When you take a close look at the management approach requirements for GRI, you will note that the disclosure requests are broad: performance tracking, program ownership, topic governance, policies, remediation, and more. All of these components help shape a well-rounded strategy. Why? Because these details show that there is accountability and ownership of these initiatives, and communicating them means being transparent with stakeholders. Using management approaches as a guide for developing best-practice programs helps build a strong foundation for impact.
3. GRI helps drive transparency for your stakeholders
If you’re disclosing in accordance with GRI, then you’ve conducted a materiality assessment. As this process highlights, your stakeholders want to know what you’re doing. Different stakeholders have different interests, and they are concerned about how they may be impacted by your risks and opportunities. Reporting to a broad set of indicators, like GRI, provides more opportunity to communicate a broad array of information with various stakeholders.
4. GRI can help prep your organization for the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)
CSRD is top of mind for many organizations. Clients often ask us how they can prepare to meet the requirements of CSRD and what data is expected. While there are many considerations for CSRD and they vary by organization type, GRI disclosures can serve as a guide for preparedness. Overall, we see a high degree of overlap between GRI topical disclosures and CSRD. So, the more your organization aligns with GRI data requirements, the more likely it is to be prepared for CSRD and other potential regulations.
5. Robust GRI reporting can signal industry leadership
If your ambition is to be an industry leader with your sustainability program, then reporting to GRI can support this. There are two ways to report to GRI: “with reference to” and “in accordance with.” The latter is less common since the bar is higher (disclose to all the “shalls” outlined in the standards). The more you deepen your alignment with GRI, the more likely you are to stand out amongst your peers and set a leading example of disclosure.
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