Human rights is at the heart of corporate transparency

Published date: 05 May 2022

Growing investor-led pressure for consistent disclosure on human rights impacts

Stakeholder demands are reaffirming that disclosure on human rights related impacts are central to how companies demonstrate accountability. This is a key conclusion of the new edition of The GRI Perspective, the regular series exploring topical themes in the world of sustainability reporting.

Better human rights reporting - needed now, but how? sets out that the way in which companies quantify their actions in relation to human rights is becoming a core element of ESG reporting. And as new research from the Workforce Disclosure Initiative underlines, investors are concerned by inconsistencies in what companies report on human rights risks.

This has been recognized in a major update to the Universal Standards, which require all organizations using the GRI Standards to report in line with intergovernmental expectations for human rights due diligence, as set by the UN and OECD – the first and only global reporting standards to do so.

Human rights impacts are hugely important as they form the basis for wider reporting across the entire ESG spectrum. Yet measuring social data is complex. After all, it is easier to quantify a ton of carbon than place a value on human rights. That is why investors and other stakeholders are expecting companies to integrate human rights reporting into their policies, actions, strategy and risk assessment. Through our revised Universal Standards, which come in to effect for all GRI reporting from January next year, we have integrated transparency on human rights at the heart of sustainability reporting. This helps any organization using the GRI Standards to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights as well as emerging mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation.”

Harold Pauwels, Director of Standards

The GRI Universal Standards 2021 update, launched in October last year, includes strengthened human rights due diligence reporting, addressing a previous gap between intergovernmental expectations on business and human rights and the available reporting frameworks.

The changes mean that disclosures on human rights impacts are now expressly included in the Universal Standards, which apply to all reporting organizations (rather than as a separate Topic Standard that a company is only required to report on if it determines it to be material).

GRI offers an online training course, Reporting on Human Rights with GRI Standards 2021 update, accessible now through the GRI Academy.

Six editions of The GRI Perspective have published so far. This briefing series was launched in 2022, with previous issues covering themes that range from stakeholder capitalism to the concept of materiality.