GRI Standards: Moving forward after public consultation
03 August 2016

​The public comment period for the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) has ended, and the responses are now in. The GRI Standards Division and the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) are hard at work analyzing the feedback and considering how it will influence the final Standards. 
​The public comment period, which ended on 17 July, gave stakeholders around the world a chance to review and comment on the new modular structure and improved format of the draft Standards. Many commented through the online public consultation platform, and others participated in one of the 15 consultation workshops held in 13 countries around the world. 

In total, more than 350 participants took part in stakeholder workshops, and GRI received over 100 additional feedback submissions. More than half of these represented viewpoints of organizations or groups of organizations, and the process resulted in over 1100 individual comments to be analyzed by the Standards Division and the GSSB.

Positive feedback and valuable recommendations received from stakeholders 
Overall, the majority of feedback on the new structure of the GRI Standards has been positive. Many respondents agree that the new modular structure is more user-friendly and easy to navigate. They also appreciated the distinction between requirements, recommendations, and guidance throughout the Standards.  

‘We believe the transition to GRI Standards is a positive development,’ said one comment. ‘The move by GRI to a standard makes it clearer to the reporting organization what is required and what is optional.’

Most stakeholders had positive feedback about the improved clarity and accessibility of the draft Standards, although some would like to see even more simplified language. Some also expressed concerns about the usability of having to consult multiple individual Standards when preparing a report.  

There were many suggestions on how to make the Standards more streamlined and navigable, such as shortening introduction sections, adding more hyperlinks, and including an overview of disclosures at the beginning of each document. Stakeholders also requested an even simpler and more refined explanation of the topic Boundary concept.

Overall, stakeholders were divided on the inclusion of an ‘SRS-referenced’ claim. Some felt this provided additional flexibility for reporters. As one comment described: 
‘We believe establishing a third type of claim - ‘SRS-referenced’ - is constructive and will promote greater conformity in organizing non-core or non-comprehensive in accordance reporting under one category’.

Others, however, were concerned it might inadvertently encourage organizations to avoid reporting on all of their material topics. 
‘We see the risk,’ said a third comment, ‘that SRS-referenced reports will be mistaken for "GRI reports", although they might not reflect material topics.’

Finally, some stakeholders also expressed concern that the proposed effective date of 1 January 2018 could be challenging for all organizations to meet. 

A detailed review of the feedback and next steps
The GSSB and the Standards Division are now carrying out a comprehensive review of the feedback received. The GSSB will also evaluate how best to revise the Standards in order to address the key issues raised during the consultation period. 

Proposed changes will be discussed in public GSSB meetings, and stakeholders are encouraged to listen in to learn more about how their comments are considered and implemented. Links to live and recorded meetings can be found on the GSSB meeting page.

In addition to these meetings, all public comments will be published online. The Standards Division will also publish a summary of the main themes raised during the consultation and how these have been addressed. 

After this review, the GSSB will convene another public meeting in Amsterdam from 30 August to 1 September to evaluate the updated Standards, and to determine if they require additional re-exposure before they can be finalized for publication. 

If the GSSB determines that no additional public exposure period is necessary, the final GRI Standards are expected to be published in October 2016. GRI will also produce a user guide, mapping documents, and additional supporting resources to help reporters transition smoothly from the G4 Guidelines to the new GRI Standards.

As always, GRI’s stakeholders have been an integral part of this transition process – providing valuable feedback to strengthen the GRI Standards. The GSSB and the Standards Division greatly appreciate their input, which supports the multi-stakeholder process that ensures the GRI Standards remain credible, inclusive and functional. 

When finalized, the GRI Standards will be more accessible for reporting organizations and policy-makers - encouraging more consistent, higher quality sustainability reporting, focused on material issues. 

In addition, the new modular structure of the GRI Standards will permit continuous improvement moving forward. This is increasingly important in the constantly evolving regulatory environment, and will protect the investment GRI and its community have made to develop the most widely used sustainability reporting framework in the world.