The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards provide a good framework for sustainability reporting. The standards required, regarding report content and quality, are organized well and fairly easy to understand (Global Reporting Initiative 2016a, 6-7). The reporting structure has many strengths but does fall short on some aspects. Overall, the reports are useful and effective, but as with most frameworks, further work can be done to continually improve the product.
One of the first sections in the 2016 GRI 102 disclosures section focuses on ethics and integrity. This section only requires an organization to report a description of the organization’s standards and how they seek advice or enable reporting of ethical issues (Global Reporting Initiative 2016b, 16-17). An organization could easily provide that simple information while still undertaking unethical practices. Strengthening of this section should have some of the guidance elements that are provided added into the requirements; “level of satisfaction of those who used the reporting mechanisms” for example (Global Reporting Initiative 2016b, 17). An organization I worked at previously would have easily passed all of the requirements of this reporting structure, but when they did an internal survey they had dismal results in employee confidence in ethics that could easily be hid under the rug because it was not required to report them externally. Incorporating GRI’s reporting recommendation into a requirement would have led to that company having to provide those results externally; highlighting the risks the company had regarding ethics and integrity. A more stringent requirement detailing those risks and impacts would further the usefulness of this kind of reporting.
GRI standards are some of the clearest and defined set of reporting standards I have seen so far. They provide an organization looking to create a sustainability report very clear structure and guidance on how to develop a useful and effective report. While there are some weaknesses to the requirements, the GRI standards do provide greater detail and clarification in their reporting recommendation and guidance advice for each section. To strengthen the usefulness and effectiveness of this structure, GRI should further define and require elements from their reporting recommendations.
Author: Logan Callen
Eccles, Robert G., and Michael P. Krzus. 2015. The Integrated Reporting Movement: Meaning Momentum, Motives, and Materiality. New York: Wiley.
Global Reporting Initiative. 2016a. GRI 101: Foundation. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/.
⸻. 2016b. GRI 102: General Disclosures. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/.
⸻. 2016c. GRI 103: Management Approach. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/.