Questions about transitioning from G4 to GRI Standards

What has changed compared to G4?

The GRI Standards are based on the content from the G4 Guidelines and feature the following main changes and improvements:

  • New modular structure: The GRI Standards are organized as a set of modular, interrelated standards. The Standards bring together content from both the G4 Guidelines and the G4 Implementation Manual. 

  • Revised format with clearer requirements: The new format has clear distinctions between requirements (indicated by ‘shall’), recommendations (indicated by ‘should’), and guidance.

  • Content clarifications: Key concepts and disclosures from G4 have been clarified to improve understanding and application of the Standards (e.g., how to define the topic Boundary, how to report on topics not covered by the GRI Standards, ‘employee’/‘worker’ terminology).

  • Greater flexibility and transparency in how to use the Standards: For organizations preparing a report in accordance with the Standards as well as for those using selected Standards to report specific information.

  • Restructuring/relocating selected content: Some disclosures and ‘Aspects’ from G4 have been merged or integrated into other sections in order to reduce duplication and to improve the logical flow of the Standards. These changes are set out in detail in the ‘Mapping G4 to the GRI Standards’ tool.

  • Overall editing: Content from G4 has been edited for greater clarity and simpler language.

All key concepts and most disclosures from G4 have carried through to the GRI Standards (the Reporting Principles, reporting the management approach, and the emphasis on reporting only material topics remain). Therefore, for organizations already reporting in accordance with G4, impacts on the reporting process should be relatively minor.

Please note that GRI 303: Water 2016 and GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety 2016 have been updated in 2018 to align with international best practice and recent developments in water stewardship and occupational health and safety management and reporting; and to harmonize with key instruments and reporting frameworks. For more information about the revised GRI 303: Water and Effluents 2018 and GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety 2018 Standards, please see the 'Revised GRI 303: Water and Effluents 2018 and GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety 2018 Standards' FAQ page.

For more information about the Materiality principle in the GRI Standards, please see the question 'Has the Materiality principle changed in the GRI Standards?'.

For more information about the 'Boundary' in the GRI Standards, please see the question 'How and why has the concept of 'Boundary' changed?'.

Have the in accordance criteria changed compared to G4?

The two options for reporting in accordance (Core and Comprehensive) still exist in the GRI Standards. There have been some changes due to the new format and structure, and the content clarifications.

The criteria to claim that a report has been prepared in accordance with the GRI Standards (either Core or Comprehensive option) can be found on pages 22-23 of GRI 101: Foundation. For an overview of changes to the G4 disclosures, consult the mapping tool.

In addition, the GRI Standards offer more flexibility for organizations that want to use selected Standards, or parts of their content, to report specific information, without preparing a report in accordance with the Standards. This is referred to as a ‘GRI-referenced’ claim.

Any organization using disclosures from the GRI Standards in published materials is required to state how it has done so. See Section 3 of GRI 101 for information on the specific claims, or statements of use, that organizations are required of organizations using the Standards.

What happens if I publish a report based on the G4 Guidelines after 1 July 2018?

Reports published on or after 1 July 2018 are required to use the GRI Standards.

If a report is published after this time that is not prepared using the GRI Standards, it will not be considered a GRI-based report.

Reports published on or after 1 July 2018 that refer to the G4 Guidelines will be classified on GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database as ‘Citing-GRI Reports’.

It is worth noting however, that the GRI Standards do offer flexibility for organizations that want to use selected Standards, or parts of their content, to report specific information, without preparing a report in accordance with the Standards. Given that the GRI Standards are based on the content of the G4 Guidelines, this may be an option the organization can investigate. See Section 3.3 of GRI 101: Foundation for information on making a GRI-referenced claim’. In addition, it may be useful to consult the mapping tool, which provides a complete overview of changes between the GRI G4 Guidelines and the GRI Standards.

What sector-specific guidance is available for use with the GRI Standards?

With the transition from G4 Guidelines to GRI Standards, the G4 Sector Disclosures remain valid. The use of the G4 Sector Disclosures is recommended for organizations using the GRI Standards, but is not a requirement for preparing a report in accordance with the Standards (see GRI 101: Foundation, Section 2 for more detail). 

The GSSB does intend to initiate work to update sector guidance, starting in 2018. More information will be shared on the GSSB page once it is available.