Global Reporting Initiative – a global sustainability reporting standard

20 April, 2022
Global Reporting Initiative GRI - a global sustainability reporting standard

What is Global Reporting Initiative? 

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international independent standards organization. It helps businesses, governments, and other organizations understand and communicate their impacts on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, and corruption.

The GRI provides a comprehensive framework for reporting on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social performance, known as the GRI Standards. These standards are voluntary and are used by organizations around the world to help them disclose relevant and reliable information in a consistent and transparent manner. This information can then be used by investors, stakeholders, and other interested parties to assess an organization’s sustainability performance and make informed decisions.

Since 1997, it has been an independent worldwide organization that has led the way in sustainability reporting. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards have been embraced by organizations and industries worldwide to effectively share their influence on sustainability concerns, thanks to a group dedicated to illustrating how disclosure can be a force of change.

Table of contents:

  1. How did GRI start?
  2. What does GRI do?
  3. How do you choose the right sustainability reporting standards?
  4. Who is the GRI reporting for?
  5. Why is this report critical?
  6. What are the GRI reporting standards?
  7. What are the different GRI reporting standards guidelines?
  8. How to create a GRI report?
  9. What are the benefits of GRI reporting?

How did the Global Reporting Initiative start?

In the autumn of 1997, the GRI was established by the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) in partnership with Tellus Institute (a nonprofit research and advisory firm). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined later, proving to be an essential partner. In early 1998, a steering committee was formed as a guide with policies that helped guide the GRI’s overall direction and structure. 

The creators aimed to have an open stakeholder process with the main guideline on reporting over “planet, people and profit”. On the other hand, outsiders can assess the companies’ sustainability performance and help the businesses make decision-making processes. 

The GRI is designed to stimulate changes in the organization by allowing them to track the performance of the competitors and the stakeholders. The need for GRI arose when there was no universal standard of reporting and comparison of performance, despite having both regulatory and nonregulatory factors. GRI employs de facto international standards that apply to all. It makes it easy to regulate and compare the performance. 

What does GRI do?

  • The GRI provides a comprehensive framework for reporting on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social performance, known as the GRI Standards. These standards are voluntary and are used by organizations around the world to help them disclose relevant and reliable information in a consistent and transparent manner.
  • This information can then be used by investors, stakeholders, and other interested parties to assess an organization’s sustainability performance and make informed decisions.
  • The GRI also offers training and support to organizations to help them understand and implement the GRI Standards.
  • Additionally, the GRI maintains a database of sustainability reports from organizations that have used the GRI Standards to disclose their performance.

How to choose the right sustainability reporting standard?

There are several different sustainability reporting frameworks. It’s upon businesses to choose how to disclose their performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Some of the most commonly used frameworks include:

  1. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards – the GRI provides a comprehensive framework for reporting on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social performance.
  2. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards – SASB provides industry-specific standards for publicly listed companies to disclose material ESG information to investors.
  3. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – the TCFD provides recommendations for financial institutions to disclose the risks and opportunities associated with climate change.
  4. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) – the UNGC is a voluntary initiative for businesses to align their operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption.
  5. The Integrated Reporting (IR) Framework – the IR framework provides a holistic approach to reporting on an organization’s value creation, including its financial and non-financial performance.


How to choose the right sustainability ESG reporting standard - global reporting initiative

The above image is a great summary of how to know what is the right sustainability and compliance reporting standard for your business. Read the complete article here…

Sustainability Reporting Standards and Frameworks

Who is GRI reporting for?

The GRI standards set widely recognised standards that specifically relate to sustainable reporting. It applies to all organizations, including the government, corporations, and large and small businesses. It helps track the organization’s tracking and report efforts that work to meet the net-zero target of low carbon. 

The format is quite simple and easy to use, making it more adaptable to SMEs who have less experience and resources when it comes to ESG and sustainability reporting. These standards act as an accessible tool for sustainability reporting and can be adapted by organisations of all sizes and stages that help them with the decarbonisation journey. 

Multinational corporations in different countries are required to adhere to these standards. It provides a consistent, measurable and comparable set of standards that can be applied in any country or region. 

These standards are also relevant to all the stakeholders of the company, who want to know the company’s true impact on sustainability and the environment. 

Why is this GRI report important?

Reporting on sustainability concerns, successes, objectives, and actions effectively displays a company’s continued commitment to all operations. Incorporating sustainable practices into daily business operations may increase compliance, efficiency, and corporate value. This is often known as a Sustainability Management System. Internal and external reporting are critical components of implementing a change strategy since they improve staff brand awareness and customer loyalty.

  1. Establish and sustain trust: Transparently releasing information on non-financial issues may improve a company’s reputation and branding, It also helps prove to stakeholders that you care about how your everyday operations affect them.


  1. Reduce risk: You may detect and manage risks by collecting and recording data on several topics, avoiding costly reactive actions.


  1. Cut costs: By establishing a set of stakeholder-driven goals, you’ll be able to simplify procedures and concentrate resources on the areas that will have the most impact.


  1. Add value: This is accomplished by incorporating sustainability goals and continuous improvement into your everyday operations.


  1. Identify opportunities: A thorough awareness of material consequences and risks opens the door to innovation and cross-departmental dialogue.

What are the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards? 

These standards are set by the Global Sustainability Standards Board, which helps organisations to disclose the sustainability impacts. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is among the most extensively used ESG global reporting initiative, particularly among multinational corporations. GRI Standards are used by 73 per cent of G250 organisations (the world’s 250 most giant corporations by sales).

To demonstrate transparency to their consumers, most companies match their yearly CSR or Sustainability reports with the GRI Standards.

GRI 3 lays forth a step-by-step procedure for identifying material subjects.’ Analyzing the organization’s context is the first step. It is followed by identifying actual and potential consequences and rating their relevance. Then comes, selecting the most severe influences for analysis, and determining appropriate material themes.

What are the different Global Reporting Initiative guidelines? 

The Guidelines are broken down into two categories. Universal standards (which apply to all issues) and topic-specific standards (which address particular economic, environmental, and social implications).

Global Reporting Initiative GRI standards

In particular, the GSSB is working on sector disclosures for high-impact industries to provide more detailed sector-based information.

Each GRI Standard addresses a single issue and contains requirements, suggestions, and instructions for utilising and applying the standard.

The Standards define the indications or disclosures that must be included in recording and reporting a company’s effect. Revelations on the strategic framework and particulate matter disclosures are included in each Content Standard. The scheme was established to look at how a company handles a sensitive subject, the consequences, and the high standards and interests of the public.

These Guidelines include objectives for each admission and advice on how to write the most effective and comprehensive narrative possible. Some notifications have obligations for reporting on specific information or directions on how to conform with the GRI Standard.

GRI principles are designed to assist an organization and its stakeholders in comprehending the background of a report to better grasp the relevance of its implications.

How to create a GRI report?

A GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) report is a sustainability report that provides information about a company’s environmental, social, and economic performance. To create a GRI report, you can follow these steps:

  1. Determine the scope and boundaries of the report alongside the topics and performance indicators that will be included.
  2. Collect data and information relevant to the report’s scope and boundaries.
  3. Choose the GRI Standards that are most relevant to your organization and will be used to report the information.
  4. Utilize the GRI Standards to prepare the report. It has elements including a management approach, performance indicators, and an executive summary.
  5. Consult with the proper internal and external stakeholders to review and approve the report.
  6. Obtain an independent assurance statement, a GRI Content Index, or an Application Level to get the report certified.
  7. Share and publish the report with relevant parties.

What are the benefits of GRI Reporting?

GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) reporting has a number of advantages, such as:

1. Transparency and accountability: GRI reporting enables firms to be open about their performance in terms of governance, social issues, and the environment. Building credibility and trust with stakeholders might be aided by it.

2. Performance improvement: GRI reporting assists firms in identifying opportunities for improvement and more sustainable decision-making.

3. Benchmarking: Through GRI reporting, firms can assess their performance in relation to that of others in the same sector. This allows them to spot best practices and potential areas for development.

4. Compliance: GRI reporting supports adherence to a number of rules and laws pertaining to sustainability and CSR.

5. Reputation: By emphasising their commitment to sustainability, businesses can improve their reputation and brand image.

6. Risk management: GRI reporting enables companies to recognise and control sustainability-related risks. Such as those posed by environmental dangers, social conflicts, and evolving legal requirements.

7. Enhanced internal management: The GRI report-writing process can assist firms in evaluating and enhancing their internal management systems and procedures.

The ABCs of Sustainability Development

There is a growing need to adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that aim to “Transform the World”. Change comes with collective effort, mutual understanding and knowledge toward specific goals. 

Despite the UN and other international organisations making crucial decisions, the result is far from expected. It made me wonder what it is that we are falling short on. Is it the lack of interest or lack of awareness? 

That’s when I had a eureka moment, and it suddenly started to make all sense. Many people don’t know the complicated terms and references that are used when we talk about sustainability. The idea inspired me to create a new series called “The ABCs of Sustainability Development”. I hope that this series of blogs is well received and serves its purpose.



1. What are the GRI standards?

GRI Standards are a set of guidelines for sustainability reporting that provide a framework for organizations to disclose information about their environmental, social, and governance performance.


2. What does GRI stand for in GRI standards?

GRI stands for Global Reporting Initiative, which is the organization that developed and maintains the GRI Standards


3. What are GRI standards for ESG?

GRI Standards for ESG (environmental, social, and governance) provide a framework for organizations to disclose information about their performance in these areas, which are critical to sustainability.


4. Is GRI mandatory?

No. GRI is a voluntary reporting standard.


5. Where is GRI mandatory?

GRI Standards are widely recognized and used by organizations around the world, but their use is not mandatory. Some countries or regions have regulations that require certain sustainability reporting, but the use of GRI Standards is voluntary.


6. What are the benefits of GRI?

Some of the benefits of using GRI Standards include improved performance, benchmarking, compliance, reputation, risk management, and internal management systems. Additionally, GRI Standards allow organizations to align their sustainability efforts with international standards and guidelines.

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