Introducing the Global Sustainability Standards Board
04 November 2015
Eric Hespenheide

Strengthening GRI’s role and credibility as a public standard setter is a key organizational priority and will enable us to continue developing the world’s most trusted and widely used sustainability reporting standards. Since January 2015, we have implemented changes to our governance structure to recognize the importance of standard setting being a public interest activity, and to further strengthen the independence of these activities. A separate governance body – the Global Sustainability Standards Board – was created to develop and approve GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) going forward.

​The GSSB is formed of 15 members, chaired by Eric Hespenheide. Today, the GSSB is holding their inaugural public meeting, and you’re invited to listen in live to the proceedings. Vist the GSSB page of the GRI Website to access the live streaming links, Minutes of the meeting will also be posted on the the GSSB page following the meeting. We interviewed Eric Hespenheide ahead of the meeting to bring you his insider perspective.

What can we expect in terms of the future of sustainability reporting?
We will see an increased use by companies of sustainability information to inform internal decision making. Reporting isn’t the purpose, reporting is a vehicle to highlight those issues that organizations need to take into account in order to be fully accountable to their full range of stakeholders.
Why it is it necessary to have globally accepted standards?
Globally accepted sustainability reporting standards are critical because they create this common language that organizations can use to communicate their environmental, social and economic impacts. Stakeholders also want to see transparency across organizations, and have some confidence that what they’re understanding to be one organization’s impacts can be compared directly to another organization’s impacts.
Why was the GSSB formed and what is its role?
We want to demonstrate that GRI Standards are being developed in an objective and independent manner. This is important, not only for organizations to understand that GRI Standards are objective measurements, but also for regulators and legislators and others who might want to reference the GRI Standards as a point of departure for their reporting requirements – mandatory or otherwise. Whether it be for stock exchanges or other financial regulators, we want to emphasize the importance of the independence that the GSSB has in developing GRI Standards. The GSSB has sole responsibility for the development, approval and dissemination of GRI Standards.
What are the main priorities for the GSSB?
Initially, the priority for the GSSB is the transition of the G4 Guidelines into a series or set of GRI Standards. The second priority is to explore how we address the need for sector understanding, sector guidance and sector indicators through our robust multi-stakeholder approach. The third priority is sort of the unknown – we’re going to ask for input on the metrics that are missing from the set of Standards that we currently have. We have some good ideas, but we’re going to test that through a public commentary period, to really set the GSSB’s priorities going forward.
How is the GSSB representative of GRI’s multi-stakeholder principle?
We’ve carried forward the constituencies that have been very valuable and important to GRI since we pioneered sustainability reporting in the late 1990’s and have used them in the creation of the GSSB. So, the voices of labor, civil society, business, investors, and mediating institutions are all represented on the GSSB Board. In this way, we can continue the important legacy that GRI has built of being highly inclusive in the development of GRI Standards.