Transition to Standards: Your Questions Answered
04 May 2016

​There is growing global demand for a common reporting language as the next era of corporate disclosure will be more digital, responsible and interactive. Sustainability information will be used to understand an organization’s risks and opportunities and to inform strategic decision making.

With the future in mind, this year, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) is transitioning the GRI G4 Guidelines into a new set of modular, interrelated GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards). 

​Here we answer some of the main questions you’ve been asking about the transition to GRI Standards: the new format, the public comment process, and ultimately how the transition will benefit reporting organizations and report users.

What are the intended benefits of the transition to GRI Standards?
Establishing GRI Standards as formal standards will allow them to be referenced even more broadly in policy initiatives around the world, supporting greater uptake of credible sustainability reporting.
The new modular structure will enable individual standards to be updated independently, which will:
  • Ensure that the standards remain consistent with authoritative intergovernmental instruments and developments in specific content areas
  • Allow for focused, timely and continuous maintenance of contents rather than at one specific point in time
  • Give organizations continued confidence that through using GRI Standards, they are reporting in line with global best-practice

 

I’ve just transitioned to G4 in the last year. What does the transition to GRI Standards mean for my reporting?
The content of the G4 Guidelines and Implementation Manual will form the basis of the new set of GRI Standards. It will include the main concepts and all relevant disclosures from G4 enhanced with a more flexible structure, clearer requirements and simplified language. G4 reporters will therefore be in a good place to transition to GRI Standards.

 
How will GRI Standards be used?
Organizations will be able to use GRI Standards in two ways:
1) GRI Standards are primarily intended to be used together as a set. It will allow preparation of a sustainability report ‘in accordance’ with the GRI Standards based on the Reporting Principles and focused on material topics. This ensures that the organization provides a complete picture of its impacts, along with enough contextual information to understand these impacts and how they are managed. As in G4, there are two options for preparing a report in accordance with the GRI Standards: ‘core’ and ‘comprehensive’, depending on the extent to which the standards have been applied.
 
2) Organizations can also use individual GRI Standards or their contents to disclose specific sustainability information. If using GRI Standards in this way, organizations are required to include a reference in any published materials specifying which GRI Standards have been used.
 

What are the notable changes compared to G4?

There will be three ‘universal’ standards applicable to all organizations, and approximately 35 ‘topic-specific’ standards based on the Aspects within G4.

Organizations preparing a sustainability report in accordance with GRI Standards will use all three universal standards and will be able to select only the relevant topic-specific standards, based on the topics that are material for their organization.

GRI Standards feature clearer distinctions between requirements (denoted by ‘shall’), recommendations (denoted by ‘should’) and guidance sections. Content from G4 has been edited to improve clarity and simplify language, which will make the standards more user-friendly. Some content has been relocated to accommodate the new structure.

Additional clarifications have been provided for elements of G4 that were commonly misunderstood, such as how to define the topic ‘Boundary’ and how to report on topics not covered by GRI Standards. Read more about the new format on the GRI website.
 

For how long can I continue using the GRI G4 Guidelines?

GRI Standards are expected to be available for use in autumn 2016 (depending on the outcome of the public comment). It is expected that the new GRI Standards will be required for all reports published on or after 1st January 2018, and earlier adoption is encouraged. Until this point, the G4 Guidelines will still be available for use. View the Transition to Standards timeline here.
 

What is the Public Comment Process and who should provide feedback?

Obtaining public input in an inclusive way is essential to uphold the multi-stakeholder principle in the development of GRI Standards. The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) welcomes public opinion on the revised format and structure of the draft GRI Standards during the public comment period.

In line with due process, the first set of six draft standards are exposed for a 90-day Public Comment Period from 19 April to 17 July.

The remaining topic-specific standards will follow the same format and structure as the first set of exposure drafts. These standards are still under development and are scheduled to be exposed for public comment for a period of 45 days from 3 June to 17 July, following GSSB review.

Consultation is carried out primarily via an online consultation platform, which can be accessed via the GRI website.
 

Are there any other ways to provide feedback?

At the GRI Conference, taking place in Amsterdam, 18-20 May, there will be a unique opportunity to learn more about the transition to Standards and discuss the changes with the GSSB, the Standards Division and your peers at the GSSB booth and two sessions:
  • 19 May, 11:00-12:30 ‘Global Sustainability Standards Board – Transition towards the Sustainability Reporting Standards’. This session will give a preview of the format of GRI Standards and showcase other key projects that form part of the work program of the GSSB. The session will also provide opportunity to interact directly with the GSSB.
  • 20 May, 09:00-10:30 ‘Transition to GRI Standards – Have Your Say’. During this interactive session you will learn about the changes in structure and format within GRI Standards, have the opportunity to discuss the changes with peers and the GRI Standards Division and provide important feedback which will help to shape the future of GRI Standards.
 
Additionally, there will be webinars and workshops around the globe during June and July 2016.