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GRI Standard 303: Water - now under review
06 September 2017
​GRI 303: Water, used by organizations to report on impacts related to water, is one of the first GRI Standards to be updated. The revised draft Standard is now available for public consultation through 9 October 2017.
Developed in the public interest, through a robust, multi-stakeholder process, the GRI Standards are widely trusted and used around the world. They are embedded in more than 100 policy instruments in 50 countries and regions, including 35 stock exchanges. As such, the GRI Standard 303 has a significant influence on the information that organizations report about their water impacts around the world.

Per its formal due process, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), GRI’s independent standard-setting body, appointed a multi-stakeholder Project Working Group to review GRI 303: Water. The Working Group includes 15 global experts with diverse experience in reporting and evaluating information about impacts on water.
The Project Working Group has now updated the content of the Standard, bringing the proposed revised draft Standard in line with internationally-agreed best practice in water reporting.
 
Changes to the Standard, suggested by the Project Working Group and incorporated into the revised draft Standard follow below:
 
  • Reporting water consumption in addition to water withdrawal is now required, with an emphasis on reporting in water-stressed areas. This aims to focus reporting on an organization’s overall water impacts, especially in sensitive areas.
  • Effluents and discharge content (previously part of GRI 306: Effluents and Waste) is now incorporated into GRI 303. This aims to provide a full picture of water impacts, from withdrawal to consumption, to discharge. The Standard has also therefore been retitled GRI 303: Water and Effluents.
  • More detail is now required on water discharges – including reporting discharges by level of treatment or quality, as well as substances of concern.
  • Reporting additional water and effluents related management approach is now required. These additional requirements focus on specific elements of an effective management approach for water and effluents, including how water is managed at a local level, and as a shared resource.
  • There is a new disclosure for reporting on water impacts in the supply chain and related to products and services. Adding this disclosure gives an additional opportunity for organizations to report about significant water impacts elsewhere in the value chain.
  • Reporting on water recycled and reused is now recommended, but not required. Although recycling and reuse can be an important part of managing water, the total impacts are now also covered by reporting on water consumption.
  • More extensive guidance has been added throughout the Standard, including sample tables for reporting data.

Why these changes?
These proposed changes aim to improve the quality and utility of information reported on an organization’s water impacts, helping them to provide comparable and action-ready information.

“The revised Standard will help reporters to be clearer about the impact they have on water, at whatever stage in their value chain, and also about what actions they need to take to address those impacts,” says Project Working Group member Jan-Willem Vosmeer of Heineken.

The revised Standard will thus enable organizations to be more transparent about their water impacts, and to understand where improvements can be made.

“Transparency on water is important for a lot of reasons,” says Peter Schulte, a Project Working Group member from the Pacific Institute. “There’s the more obvious and direct fact that it helps keep them accountable. It helps us compare companies and see if they are making progress. But I think there is also a helpful component of showing companies how to think about water and their impacts. These new metrics can point them in the right direction about how to think about water.”

Have your say
Are you an expert on water-related impacts or do you have experience reporting on them? Now that the draft Standard has been proposed, the GSSB wants to hear from you!

During this public consultation phase, stakeholders are asked to review and comment on the rigor, feasibility and utility of the revised content, and the data that it will generate. All feedback can be provided online via the GRI Standards public consultation platform by 9 October.

To find out more about the proposed changes to the Standard, or to provide your comments on the draft Standard:
  • Sign up for and participate in our upcoming live webinar, scheduled for 26 September 2017, which will review the updated Standard and the public comment process.
  • Watch a recorded version of the webinar or join a regional consultation workshop on the GRI Standards website.
  • Send any further questions about the draft of GRI 303: Water and Effluents or the standard-setting process to water@globalreporting.org.