4 Nov 21

Understanding the updated GRI Universal Standards 2021

Updated-GRI-standards-2021-sThe Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has announced the updated version of the Universal Standards - the global benchmarks for sustainability reporting that enable organisations to understand and report on their impacts. The GRI standards are a modular system and consist of three series of standards; revised Universal Standards, new Sector Standards, adapted Topic Standards.

This blog aims to provide a better understanding of what these standards mean for business as well as highlight the main updates that took place.

What are GRI’s Universal Standards and why have they been revised?

The Universal Standards apply to all organisations and include foundation, general disclosures and material topics that will help organisations report in accordance with the GRI standards. The standards are developed following a transparent and multi-stakeholder process overseen by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB).

These standards have been revised to align with intergovernmental organisations and authoritative instruments as set by the UN and OECD and is the first reporting standard to fully reflect due diligence expectations for organisations to manage their sustainability impacts. The standards will come into effect on January 1st 2023, however, companies are encouraged to transition earlier where possible.

What are the changes to GRI’s Universal Standards?

GRI 1 Foundation

Outlines the purpose of the GRI standards, clarifying key concepts and explaining how to interpret the standards in totality. GRI 1 states the reporting principles to enable better quality and presentation of data and stresses on reporting in accordance with the GRI standards, thereby replacing the 'Core' and 'Comprehensive' options that previously existed. It also focuses on some of the key concepts including the impacts of organisations on the economic environment and people, including on human rights as well as due diligence and stakeholders.

GRI 2 General Disclosures

Contains revised disclosures for organisations to provide information on their reporting practises, governance, strategy, policies and stakeholder engagement. The technical committee specifically worked on GRI 2 providing their input on new disclosures in policy commitments for responsible business conduct including human rights and due diligence.

GRI 3 Material Topics

Comprises of a revised approach to materiality by incorporating the concept of due diligence with improved guidance on how to determine material topics. GRI 3 also contains revised disclosures for reporting the process of determining as well as managing the list of material topics identified.

GRI Sector standards

Key additions to the set of standards that aim to provide information on a sector’s most significant impacts. The sector standards are not a substitute for an organisation’s own materiality process, instead, they are to be used as additional and complementary resources.

Greenstone & GRI

As a GRI 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, SASB, 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.


Additional Resources:


Visit our Frameworks & Standards content library aiming to keep you informed with the latest industry updates and learn more about the available sustainability and ESG frameworks and standards to support your company's reporting.


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