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GRI Standards - A closer look!

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

Standing out within the"Alphabet soup of ESG reporting", GRI Standards is the world's most used standards for sustainability or ESG reports.

This article will primarily focus on what is GRI Standards and How to report with GRI Standards.

Global Reporting Initiatives Organization

GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) is an independent, international organization with the mission to help businesses and other organizations take account of their impacts. GRI organization has headquarters in the Netherlands and a wide network all over the world, plays a significant role in providing the universal language to communicate or compare the impacts of businesses and organizations, which is known as GRI Standards.

What are the GRI Standards?

GRI Standards are a set of interconnected standards and principles that enables organizations to understand and report publicly on their most significant impacts on the economic, environmental and social aspects, laying the foundation for sustainable development.

There is no restriction on which kinds of organizations can use GRI Standards. Any organization, regardless of large or small scale, private or public, is encouraged to apply GRI Standards to produce a relevant, comparable, and transparent report to their stakeholders - including investors, policymakers, capital markets, and civil society. ​

What is the GRI Standards system?

GRI Standards were designed as a system consisting of 3 levels: The Universal standards, The Sector standards, and the Topic standards.

  • The Universal standards include GRI 1 - requirement and principles; GRI 2 - Organizations' information disclosures and GRI 3 - Material topics disclosures. All these three typical green color-cover standards are applied to all organizations.

  • The Sector standards include a brief description and material topics for a specific sector. Sector standards are in the gray color cover. Currently, GRI has released 3 Sector standards: Oil & Gas sector 2021, Coal sector 2022, Agriculture Aquaculture and Fishing sector 2022.

  • The Topic standards include 32 topics covering all the material matters in the economic, environmental, social, and human rights. These standards are on the purple color cover.

The GRI Standards principles

  • Accuracy

  • Balance

  • Clarity

  • Comparability

  • Completeness

  • Sustainability context

  • Timeliness

  • Verifiability

What are the options to report with GRI Standards?

Organizations that want to use GRI standards to report their ESG performance can either report in accordance or in reference to the standards.

Requirement when reporting in accordance with GRI Standards

  • Requirement 1: Apply the reporting principles

  • Requirement 2: Report the disclosures in GRI 2: General Disclosure 2021

  • Requirement 3: Determine the material topic

  • Requirement 4: Report the disclosure in GRI 3: Material topic 2021

  • Requirement 5: Report disclosures from the GRI Topic Standards for each material topic

  • Requirement 6: Provide reasons for omission of disclosures and requirements that the organization can not comply with

  • Requirement 7: Publish a GRI content index

  • Requirement 8: Provide a statement of use

  • Requirement 9: Notify GRI

In case the organization can not fulfill all the above requirements or prefer to report on only some specific topic standards, the organization can report in reference to GRI Standards. However, the following requirements are a must.

  • Publish a GRI context index

  • Provide a statement of use

  • Notify GRI

So what does it mean to say "reasons for omissions" when reporting in accordance with GRI Standards?

It means when the organization can not abide by the disclosure requirement, the organization is expected to provide a reason and a brief explanation. The reasons could be either of the following ones.

Reason for omission

Brief explanation

Not applicable

Explain why it is not applicable

Legal prohibitions

Describe the specific legal term

Confidentiality constraints

Describe the specific constraints

Information unavailable or incomplete

Describe specific information that is unavailable or incomplete. Explain the reason why and describe the action being taken and the expected time that the specified information will be available or complete.

However, in any case, the organization report in accordance with GRI Standards is not allowed to omit:

  • Disclosure 2-1: Organizational details

  • Disclosure 2-2: Entities included in the organization's sustainability reporting

  • Disclosure 2-3: Reporting period, frequency, and contact point

  • Disclosure 2-4: Restatements of information

  • Disclosure 2-5: External assurance

  • Disclosure 3-1: Process to determine material topics

  • Disclosure 3-2: List of material topics.

So to sum up, hereunder is the step-by-step guide on how to report with GRI Standards.





I started Sustainability House with the goal of offering readers a glimpse into my thoughts and experiences. What started out as weekly posts have evolved into a dynamic site packed with information about various topics that are near and dear to me. Take some time to explore the blog and see for yourself what makes you curious and eager.


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