G4 revealed: results of the first Public Comment Period now available
07 March 2012

​An organization’s sustainability strategy description should be included in a relevant report covering sustainability performance material to that organization, say the results of the first Public Comment Period (PCP) in the development of the next generation of GRI Guidelines – G4. The PCP revealed many other interesting things, and the results are now available.

In September 2010, the GRI Board of Directors initiated the development of the next generation of GRI Guidelines, G4. In May 2011, GRI began informal consultations, to understand what needed to be implemented in order to achieve these development priorities. Formally, all GRI Reporting Framework development must follow a Due Process, which ensures that all efforts are made to involve and consider the interests of all GRI’s stakeholders. The first Public Comment Period (PCP) to shape G4, which started in August 2011, marked the beginning of the formal consultation process.

Individuals and organizations responded to the PCP Survey, which was open between August and November 2011. In addition to the online survey with 31 questions to the public, GRI also ran workshops. In total, the PCP attracted around 2300 participants, 1832 of whom provided a submission via the online survey.

The survey included questions such as ‘what is the minimum content a sustainability report should contain?’ and ‘who should define topics in a report?’, and questions gathering feedback on people's experiences with reporting. The aim of the PCP survey was to gather information that would inform the decision making process for the steps GRI should take in G4's development.

The responses to the survey have now been analyzed and published online.

Summary of the results

According to most survey respondents, the essential elements that a sustainability report should contain are sustainability strategy, governance structure and approach, material impacts, risks and opportunities, material topic indicators and goals related to those indicators.

The majority of respondents indicated that GRI should define a set of topics (and indicators) per sector for reporting. GRI should also offer guidance on how to link sustainability reporting and integrated reporting.
New topics were suggested during the preparatory phase before G4 development began, and this was confirmed in the PCP survey. According to respondents, GRI should address some new topics in the Guidelines, and update some existing topics. The most popular topics mentioned include business ethics, greenhouse gas emissions, eco-innovation, life cycle assessment, water, and biodiversity.

Reporters preparing reports for their own organizations responded to questions about why they report and how they see the future. Reporters predict an increase in the relevance of an integrated report over the next three to ten years.

According to reporters, the five most important reasons to report on sustainability performance are to provide transparency on risks, opportunities, performance and impacts to a range of stakeholders, to engage with and establish trust with stakeholders, to manage reputation, and to improve their own performance.

What’s happening now?

Based on the strongest recommendations from the PCP, some decisions were made about the development of G4 were made by GRI’s Technical Advisory Committee and Board of Directors. Five Working Groups have either been set up or are currently being recruited to develop G4’s content:
• Disclosure on Management Approach
• Governance and Remuneration
• Boundary
• Application Levels
• Supply Chain Disclosure (existed previously, but will work to incorporate discussions into G4)

A Technical Editing Task Force is also working on improvements of technical definitions throughout GRI’s G3.1 Guidelines. The aim is to make G4 technically robust and easier to use for reporters and information users.

Further decisions on new topics to be covered by the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, or improvements to be implemented for the topics proposed, will be made in the next few weeks. This includes the approach to new topics, and expansion of existing topics, suggested by the first G4 PCP survey participants.

For more information, please visit the G4 Development pages