Bridging the gap: achieving credible and comparable impact reporting

Published date: 05 October 2023

Latest letter from Carol Adams, Chair of the GSSB

Since my last letter in August, The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) took a deserved break and reconvened with a packed agenda in mid-September. We covered the different Standards in various phases of development and explored practicalities to ease the reporting burden. Here are some key areas of discussion I would like to share:

Economic Impact Standard

We approved the commencement of the Economic impact project to review all related standards and disclosures. The world has changed since the GRI Standards first published in 2016, and traditional metrics for measuring an organization’s economic impact - GDP growth, profitability, shareholder returns - are increasingly seen as inadequate. These planned new standards will take a more holistic approach considering the SDGs as well as broader economic, social, and environmental factors. We’re currently recruiting experts and changemakers to support this process. You can find out how to apply here.

Aligning existing topic and sector standards

We considered a proposal to better align Topic and Sector Standards.  The GSSB has approved a project to realign the portfolio of GRI Sector Standards with the revised Topic Standards, starting with the Biodiversity Standard already in progress. The GRI Standards team were tasked with assessing the scalability, scope, and practicalities of the project, which is intended launch in 2024.

Feedback from the Mining and Biodiversity public comment periods

One of the most crucial elements of our Standard development is the consultative and multi-stakeholder approach. Earlier in the year, we had two Standards out for public consultation – Biodiversity and Mining. Hearing and understanding the views of our reporters, experts in the sector, investors and wider society is important to ensure the result is fit for purpose. Overall, the responses to both Standards was incredibly positive. Here is a quick breakdown:

Mining Standard:

    • We received over 90 submissions and 1,100 individual comments from across civil society, academia, investors and mining institutions from around the world.
    • The topic of mine site reporting (reporting on individual sites to understand the specific impacts on communities) generated a lot of feedback, including concerns about the length of reports and business-sensitive data which might have to be shared.
    • Other topics which garnered discussion were greenhouse gas emissions, conflict-affected and high-risk areas, and the management of tailings (waste material).
    • You can read all the comments here.

 Biodiversity Standard:

    • This consultation received over 120 submissions across business, investors, public interest groups and civil society.
    • It was clear from the feedback that the revised Standard needs to be clear and precise around certain terminology, definitions, and methodology.
    • Respondents asked for more guidance on how to measure and report on drivers of biodiversity loss, and there was great debate on the best practices for measuring ecosystem conditions.
    • You can review the submitted comments here.

Guidance on extending the GRI 3 process of determining significant impacts

The GSSB approved a proposal to develop (initially non-authoritative) guidance to help reporters use the process set out in GRI 3: Material Topics of determining and prioritising their organization’s significant impacts as a starting point for identifying risks and opportunities that arise from those impacts. The guidance might also consider how the impacts of an organization, and the cumulative impacts over time, affect an organization’s dependencies. This is important to all involved in our multi-stakeholder process, including investors. The guidance would be standard-agnostic and enable GRI reporters to identify risks and opportunities related to their impacts and affected dependencies for reporting, together with any financial or double materiality-based standard.

As ever, if you have any feedback about the Standards, and particularly on using the GRI 3 process for determining significant impacts, we would love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Dr Carol Adams 
Chair, Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB)