Accountability on human rights: labor standards up for review

Published date: 20 September 2022

GSSB seeks multi-stakeholder representatives for Advisory Group

Human rights reporting will be further integrated in the GRI Standards, following the launch of a project to update labor Topic Standards – including the creation of new disclosures or standards.

The publication of the revised Universal Standards in 2021 meant GRI offers the only global standards to fully align with intergovernmental instruments, as set by the UN and OECD, on due diligence expectations for human rights impacts. In a next step, GRI will revise labor-related Standards, in recognition of the need for organizations to do more to meet their responsibilities to protect human rights and ensure decent working conditions and treatment of workers, as key elements under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), the independent body responsible for setting the GRI Standards, has appointed a Technical Committee, with representatives from the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and trade unions, to lead the process. A global search is now underway for members to join a Labor Advisory Group, which will support the revision work for the labor-related Topic Standards.

The GRI Standards are regularly reviewed to ensure they reflect the global best practice for sustainability reporting. With growing demands and responsibilities for companies to report on how they are safeguarding human rights, our standards need to evolve to meet these transparency expectations. As the ILO warned last week, the number of people forced into modern slavery has risen by a fifth in recent years, including 28 million in forced labor. Labor rights are human rights and lie at the heart of sustainable development. Therefore, I look forward to working closely with the ILO, trade unions and the IOE on the Technical Committee, as well as the experts from the Advisory Group.”

Judy Kuszewski, Chair of the GSSB

The significant review process for our labor-related standards will encompass crucial human rights issues, such as fair wages, decent work, social inclusion, modern slavery – among others. We are seeking representatives from across sectors and stakeholder groups, to help shape the changes. I encourage all interested parties to apply to join the Advisory Group.”

Harold Pauwels, GRI’s Director of Standards

The current intention is that eight Topic Standards will be reviewed:

    • Market Presence (GRI 202)
    • Employment (GRI 401)
    • Labor/Management Relations (GRI 402)
    • Training and Education (GRI 404)
    • Diversity and Equal Opportunity (GRI 405)
    • Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (GRI 407)
    • Child Labor (GRI 408)
    • Forced or Compulsory Labor (GRI 409)

Identifying opportunities to improve reporting through updated or new Standards, the review will address labor and human rights issues such as:

    • Working conditions, working hours, fair compensation, living wage and income;
    • Equality and inclusion;
    • Non-discrimination, violence and harassment;
    • Skills development, life-long learning, and social protection;
    • Cascading support for human and labor rights of workers in value chains;
    • a just transition for workers in the shift to a low carbon economy.

The Labor Technical Committee will lead the revision and development of the Standards, with input and guidance from the Advisory Group. The intention is that exposure drafts for the revised Topic Standards be made available for a public comment period before the end of 2023.

Individuals with knowledge and expertise of relevant human rights and labor relations issues are invited to apply to join the Labor Advisory Group. An application form, alongside their CV (in English), should be submitted by 17 October to GRI Standards Division. Following an interview phase, appointments are expected to be finalized by 15 December.

Research from the ILO released on 12 September highlighted a growing rise between 2016 and 2021 in forms of modern slavery, with incidences occurring in every region of the world. More than half (52%) of forced labor takes place in upper or high income countries.

The Universal Standards 2021 introduced new disclosures on policy commitments on human rights and due diligence, fully aligning with the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines. This completed the first phase of a project to review GRI human rights standards.