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  • Studio Paci

GRI Standards: Insights on Principles and Updates

🌍 Definition and Structure of GRI Standards

The GRI Standards, developed by the non-profit international organization Global Reporting Initiative, are a fundamental system of accounting criteria for companies worldwide.

These standards are pivotal in the sustainability performance reporting process.

They are categorized into universal standards, applicable to all organizations, sector-specific standards, and thematic standards focusing on information relevant to specific topics.

The implementation of these criteria is crucial for companies not only in reporting their activities but also as an incentive for sustainable development.


📊 Role of GRI Standards in Sustainability Reporting

The GRI Standards are an essential tool for companies aiming to prepare their sustainability reports uniformly and transparently. These standards enable businesses to document and communicate their actions and investments in critical areas such as environment, social, and governance clearly and measurably.

Key topics covered by the GRI Standards include environmental impact, workers' rights, human rights protection, social responsibility, and ethical supply chain management. Designed for use by companies of any size, sector, and geographic location, they offer a global framework for sustainability reporting.


⏭️ 2023 Updates and Innovations

As of January 2023, significant modifications have been made to the GRI Standards. The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), an independent entity operating under the Global Reporting Initiative, introduced updates to strengthen and integrate fundamental concepts like impact, materiality, due diligence, and stakeholder engagement.

These changes were made in response to demands for increased transparency and accountability from the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the IFRS Foundation's reporting principles, published in late June 2023.

The changes mainly involve revisions and updates of existing concepts to align them with the latest regulatory standards, rather than a revolution of the principles themselves.

This is a crucial step to ensure that the GRI Standards remain cutting-edge and relevant in the rapidly evolving sustainability reporting landscape.


🔍 Why Revise the Universal Standards?

The revision of the universal standards, initiated and approved in July 2021 by the GSSB's Due Process Oversight Committee, was driven by recommendations from the GRI Technical Committee on Human Rights Disclosure.

The goal of this revision was to fully integrate human rights information into the standards, ensuring clear reporting on due diligence and improving the standards' consistency and comprehensibility.

This process involved a thorough examination of sustainability reports using the GRI Standards and considered feedback from various reporting organizations and stakeholders.

The update also focused on aligning the standards with recent trends in responsible business conduct, aiming for greater relevance and completeness in reporting, as well as enhancing the overall usability of the GRI Standards. These revisions were developed following a rigorous Due Process Protocol, overseen by the Due Process Oversight Committee, to ensure that the updates reflected a transparent and participatory process.


🔄 Evolution of Thematic Standards

The GRI's thematic standards have been updated for greater consistency with the revised universal standards.

These updates include revising the Introduction, Glossary, and Bibliography to align with changes in the corresponding sections of the universal standards.

Terminology has also been updated, for instance, "reporting requirements" have been renamed simply "requirements".

Additionally, references to obsolete concepts have been removed and updated to universal standards. These changes are part of adopting the new GRI standard model, aiming for more clarity and uniformity in reporting.


🏭 Use of Sector Standards

Sector standards are crucial for companies conforming to the GRI Standards. These standards assist businesses in identifying their material topics, providing step-by-step guidance on how to determine them.

They also specify what information should be reported in thematic standards and, in some cases, provide additional information not contained in thematic standards for more comprehensive reporting.

Companies are required to use this information to adequately document their organization's impacts, and if certain topics are not deemed relevant, they must explain why in the GRI content index.


👥 Focus on Human Rights in Universal Standards Revisions

The revisions to the universal standards aimed for greater alignment with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines. This led to the update of GRI 2: General Disclosures 2021 and GRI 3: Material Topics 2021, enabling companies to report more effectively on their human rights impact. With a clearer definition of human rights in material topics, companies can now better report on how they uphold their responsibility towards human rights protection.

The updated standards consider over 30 specific human rights topics, ranging from non-discrimination to freedom of association, from forced labor to the right to privacy. This allows companies to identify and report on those specific human rights topics most relevant to their operations.

The GSSB will continue to review the standards to ensure that the topics included reflect updated practices.

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