Ethical Performance
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Coming soon: a fourth revamp of GRI guidelines

December 2010

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has announced another comprehensive revision of its sustainability reporting guidelines – just four years after the last major overhaul.

The GRI, which has already produced three iterations of the guidelines since they were set up in 2000, says it will shortly begin working on a new version, christened ‘G4’, expected to be ready by the end of 2012.

The current G3 version of the guidelines was published in 2006 after a lengthy consultation process involving stakeholders around the world.

The GRI says one of the main reasons it feels there needs to be a revamp is a growing consensus that companies ought to be moving towards integrated reporting, under which sustainability and financial accounting is combined.  It says a key aim of the revision process will be to offer updated guidelines that can act as ‘a stepping stone’ for companies that want to produce integrated reports. Currently only a dozen or so major organizations do this.

The Amsterdam-based GRI is a key member of the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC), formed earlier this year by a wide coalition of companies, accountancy bodies, regulators and NGOs to create ‘a globally accepted framework for accounting for sustainability … which brings together financial, environmental, social and governance information in a clear, concise, consistent and comparable format’ (EP12, issue 4, p3).

The GRI says that to be fit for ‘mainstreaming’ its sustainability reporting guidelines must be strengthened so that they are ‘robust enough to support higher levels of assurance and help companies to produce reports that are trusted by markets and stakeholders’.

Mike Krzus, a partner at the UK-based chartered accountants Grant Thornton, said that although it was tempting to ask why another version of the guidelines was necessary, ‘the development of G4 should be seen as the crucible in which ideas for building an integrated reporting framework and related assurance concepts can be stress-tested’.

He added that the process of drafting G4 would ‘inform the decision-making’ of the IIRC. ‘The development of G4 will be a massive undertaking … but it will be worth the effort,’ he said.

Although details have not  yet been released of how the G4 process will be undertaken, it is likely to consist of a series of open meetings, workshops and online consultations around the globe.

The GRI recently opened a US base to encourage the wider uptake of sustainability reporting in the country, but also to promote integrated reporting. The New York office is funded  by Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Global Reporting Initiative | Global | Sustainability Reporting

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