Sustainability reporting is becoming an increasingly crucial aspect for businesses and investors alike, as global awareness of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues continues to rise. The global reporting initiative (GRI) standards provide a framework for companies to report on their ESG performance and impacts, and are widely recognised as the most comprehensive and widely used sustainability reporting framework in the world.
In this article, we will explore the key aspects of GRI reporting and how companies can effectively use the GRI standards to strengthen their ESG strategy. We will also provide guidance on how to use Greenstone's ESG software to streamline the GRI reporting process.
What are GRI standards?
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards are one of the most widely used sustainability reporting framework in the world. They provide a common language and framework for organisations to report on their ESG performance. The GRI Standards are developed through a globally recognised and independent process, involving hundreds of stakeholders from around the world. The Standards cover a range of sustainability issues, including climate change, human rights, corruption, and labour practices. They are designed to be flexible, so that organisations can use them to report on their specific sustainability impacts and strategies. The GRI Standards also provide guidance on how to ensure the quality and credibility of sustainability reports, including the use of external assurance.
Why should companies use GRI?
The use of GRI standards allows for greater transparency and comparability of sustainability reporting across various industries worldwide. Companies using GRI standards are able to better demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to provide stakeholders with important information about their ESG performance. This can help to enhance the reputation and credibility of the company, as well as to identify potential risks and opportunities related to ESG issues. In addition, the use of GRI standards can help companies to align their sustainability reporting with industry best practices and to improve the quality and relevance of their sustainability reporting.
GRI reporting with Greenstone: Where to start
Greenstone’s sustainability reporting software has been certified by GRI’s Certified Software and Tools Program which guarantees that software and digital tools are using GRI content accurately, enabling robust and transparent reporting and making sustainability reports better, more accessible and easier to produce.
As a Certified Software Partner and GRI Community member, Greenstone enables its clients to report using the GRI Standards through its award-winning software and services. Greenstone provides easy-to-use, secure software with automated, accurate and auditable reporting along with supporting services from a team of industry experts. Greenstone’s Frameworks module has been designed to meet the requirements of GRI’s sustainability reporting framework and enable companies to easily produce a GRI report.
Our software was one of the first software tools to achieve certification under GRI’s Certified Software and Tools Program.
Using Greenstone’s software, companies can:
Define bespoke question sets from a range of reporting frameworks, including GRI, CDP, SDGs, UNGC and many leading financial exchange reporting schemes, based on the relevance and materiality to their organisation.
Create custom questions to cover any additional company-specific KPIs and metrics which can be integrated into questionnaires alongside content from reporting frameworks.
Collect data and supporting information across a diverse organisation.
Consolidate data into internal and external reporting templates.
Analyse quantitative data on dashboards to assess performance and track progress over time.
Universal, Sector, or Topic standards
The GRI has a number of different standards that organisations can use, including the Universal Standard, Sector Standard, and Topic Standard.
The GRI Universal Standard is the most comprehensive of the GRI standards. It provides a general framework for sustainability reporting that can be used by any organisation, regardless of its industry or sector. The Universal Standard covers a broad range of sustainability topics, including ESG issues.
The GRI Sector Standard is a more specialised version of the Universal Standard. It provides a framework for sustainability reporting that is tailored to a specific industry or sector. The Sector Standard includes a set of core indicators that are relevant to that particular industry or sector, as well as additional indicators that organisations can choose to report on if they wish.
The GRI Topic Standard is the most focused of the GRI standards. It provides a framework for reporting on a specific sustainability topic, such as water, energy, or climate change. The Topic Standard includes a set of core indicators that organisations can use to report on that topic, as well as additional indicators that they can choose to report on if they wish.
Get a sustainable development context
It is important for organisations to recognise the central role they play in driving economic growth and development. Businesses and organisations have the power to create jobs, generate wealth, and provide goods and services that improve people's lives. However, they also have the potential to cause environmental degradation and social inequality if they are not managed in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Sustainable development for businesses involves balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations in order to create a more sustainable future. This can involve implementing sustainable business practices, such as reducing waste and emissions and engaging with stakeholders to ensure that the organisation's actions align with their needs and expectations. Businesses and organisations should look at sustainable development as a way of maximizing their positive contributions while minimizing their negative impacts.
Prepare a high-quality environmental report
To prepare a high-quality environmental report, it is important to follow a systematic and comprehensive approach. This may involve conducting a thorough analysis of an organisation's environmental performance, including its impact on air, water, and soil quality, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation. The report should also include an evaluation of the organisation's compliance with relevant environmental laws and regulations.
In addition, the report should include information on the organisation's efforts to reduce its environmental impact and improve its sustainability performance. This might include details of any initiatives or projects the organisation has implemented to reduce its environmental footprint, as well as any targets or goals it has set for future sustainability improvements. A high-quality environmental report should provide a clear and concise overview of an organisation's environmental performance, highlighting both its strengths and areas for improvement.
Involve the stakeholders
To effectively address sustainability issues, it is important to involve stakeholders in the process. By engaging with these stakeholders, organisations can gain valuable insights into their concerns and priorities and can use this information to inform their sustainability strategy and decision-making. Involving stakeholders can also help to build trust and improve communication, as well as provide opportunities for collaboration and co-creation of solutions to sustainability challenges. Involving stakeholders in sustainability efforts can help to ensure that the organisation's actions align with the needs and expectations of those who are impacted by its activities.
How to use the GRI standards to strengthen your ESG strategy
To effectively address sustainability issues and enhance your ESG strategy, it is important to use a comprehensive and standardised framework for reporting on ESG performance. By using the GRI standards in conjunction with Greenstone's ESG software solutions, organisations can streamline their sustainability reporting processes and gain valuable insights into their ESG performance. The major steps of using GRI standards include determining the relevant modules to use, applying the reporting principles, assessing materiality, collecting ESG data, filling the GRI content index, and publishing disclosures and registering the GRI report. By following these steps, organizations can use the GRI standards and Greenstone's ESG software solutions to fortify their ESG strategy and improve their sustainability performance.
Determine the standards to use
To effectively use the GRI standards to strengthen your ESG strategy, it is important to determine the relevant modules to use. This will help to ensure that your sustainability reporting is comprehensive and covers all of the key ESG issues that are relevant to your organisation.
One of the first steps in determining the relevant GRI standards is to set an ESG goal for your organisation. This could be a specific target or objective related to your organisation's ESG performance. Setting an ESG goal will help to focus your reporting efforts and provide a clear framework for assessing your organisation's performance. Once you have set an ESG goal, you should assess how much data you have available for reporting, and how much additional data you need to collect in order to prepare your sustainability report. This will help you to determine the scope and scale of your reporting efforts and to identify any gaps in your data that need to be addressed. You should also consider your organisation's resources and capabilities in terms of undertaking a sustainability report.
Greenstone's ESG software solutions can help organisations to overcome these challenges and effectively use the GRI standards to strengthen their ESG strategy. Our software modules are designed to support a range of different ESG reporting needs. Our software includes modules such as Environment, Frameworks, Health & Safety, that can help you to collect and manage your ESG data, prepare your sustainability report, and disclose your report publicly, in accordance with the GRI standards. By using Greenstone's software solutions, you can streamline your sustainability reporting processes and gain valuable insights into your ESG performance.
Apply the reporting principles
The reporting principles that are outlined in the GRI standards are designed to guide organisations in their sustainability reporting efforts and provide a framework for ensuring the quality and transparency of their reports.
The six reporting principles of the GRI standards for defining the report quality are:
Comparability: This principle emphasises the importance of using consistent metrics and indicators to compare an organisation's performance on ESG issues over time and across different organisations.
Accuracy: This principle emphasises the importance of ensuring that the data and information included in a sustainability report is accurate and complete.
Timeliness: This principle emphasises the importance of reporting on ESG issues in a timely manner, in order to provide stakeholders with current and relevant information.
Clarity: This principle emphasises the importance of presenting information in a clear and concise manner, using language and visualisations that are easy to understand.
Reliability: This principle emphasises the importance of ensuring that the data and information included in a sustainability report is reliable and can be trusted.
Conclusion: This principle emphasises the importance of providing a conclusion or summary that clearly communicates the key findings and implications of the sustainability report.
By basing your data collection and reporting approach on these principles, you can ensure that your sustainability report is of high quality and provides valuable information to stakeholders. Greenstone's ESG software solution can help you to apply these principles in your reporting efforts. Our software provides a comprehensive and standardised solution for collecting, managing, and reporting on ESG data, and can help you to ensure that your sustainability report is transparent, accurate, and reliable.
To assess materiality, you should consider the views and expectations of your stakeholders, as well as the potential impacts of your organisation's operations on the environment and society. For example, if your organization is a retail company, you might consider the impact of your operations on climate change, as well as the working conditions in your supply chain. By assessing materiality, you can ensure that the topics reported on in your sustainability report are relevant and applicable to your organization, and are based on the real and potential impact of your operations.
Greenstone's ESG software solution can help you to assess materiality and identify the most relevant topics for your sustainability report. We are proud to provide bespoke and widely customisable software that enables users to upload a variety of KPIs and metrics to help them assess their sustainability performance. By using Greenstone's software, you can gain valuable insights into your organisation's ESG performance and identify the most material topics for your sustainability report.
Collect ESG data
Collecting ESG data includes determining the specific disclosures that are required by the GRI standards that you have chosen to use. Once you have identified the relevant GRI indicators, indicators that your organisation is required to report on, you can collect the ESG data using a variety of methods, such as surveys, interviews, and on-site measurements. You should ensure that the data is collected in a consistent and accurate manner and that it is properly organised and stored for future reference. You should also consider the quality and reliability of the data, and take steps to verify and validate the information to ensure its accuracy and completeness.
By collecting and disclosing ESG data based on the specific disclosures required by the GRI standards, you can create a high-quality sustainability report that provides valuable information to stakeholders. Greenstone's ESG software solution can help you to collect and manage your ESG data and to align your sustainability report in accordance with the GRI standards.
Fill the GRI content index
Once you have collected and organised your ESG data, you can use the GRI standards to guide the preparation of your sustainability report. One of the key steps in this process is to fill the GRI content index, which is a standardised table that provides an overview of the disclosures included in your sustainability report. The content index is organised according to the GRI standards and includes information on the specific indicators and disclosures that are included in your report.
Once you have prepared the content index, you can use it to guide the organisation and presentation of your sustainability report. The content index can help you to ensure that your report is structured and easy to navigate and that it provides a clear and concise overview of your organisation's ESG performance.
Greenstone's ESG software solution can make this process simple and straightforward. By using Greenstone's software, you can quickly and easily prepare the content index for your sustainability report, and ensure that it meets the requirements specified in the GRI standards.
Publish disclosures and register the GRI report
Finally, after you prepare your sustainability report using the GRI standards, you can publish your report to release it to the public. In addition to publishing your sustainability report, you should also register your report with the GRI. This involves notifying GRI that you have used their standards to develop your sustainability report and providing them with the necessary information to verify your report. This can help to build trust and credibility with stakeholders and demonstrate your organisation's commitment to the GRI standards.
Our software includes a range of features and tools that can help you to prepare your content and ensure your sustainability report aligns with the GRI standards so you can receive a verified status from GRI.