Don’t miss the boat on the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

On April 19, 2016, the first set of drafts of the new Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards (SRS) were presented to the public. In order to become future proof, some quite drastic changes have been made to the structure compared to the previous G4 guidelines. The new standards are aimed at improving quality and flexibility and have a larger focus on material issues. It is expected that a final version will be presented to public at the end of 2016.

Time to new GRI is short!

If GRI sticks to its current planning, companies will have until December 31, 2017 to publish a (sustainability) report according to the ‘old’ GRI guidelines. As of January 1, 2018, all companies that wish to be GRI compliant must report according to the GRI SRS. This means that your organisation’s AR2017 is the final report that will be acceptable within the ‘old’ GRI G4 guidelines.

What is coming your way?

  • From principle to rule-based – One of the main transition points is a larger focus on DMA’s and the reporting principles. The new sustainability reporting standards are stricter and ask for the purpose of a management approach as well as a description of policy components and actions.
  • A modular structure – There are big changes in the numbering system (e.g. G4-10 becomes 201-8) and changes to the format. Companies that wish to report in accordance with are required to use all three universal standards of SRS 101(foundation), 201(general disclosures) and 301(management approach) and select the relevant topics of SRS 400(economic), 500(environmental), and 600(social) based on their materiality.
  • Criteria: Shall, should or can? The new standards differentiate criteria into requirements, recommendations and guidance. Requirements are mandatory and are denoted by the word shall. Recommendations are not mandatory but are encouraged and this is denoted in the criteria by the use of should. Lastly, the Guidance aspects are also not mandatory and can be used. The new standards also provide background context and examples to better understand the disclosure, and describes possible, achievable, or allowed scenarios for reporting information.

If you want to know more about these and other changes, more information on the upcoming GRI Standards can be found here.

How can I prepare myself?

To prepare your organisation, you can (should or shall) start by comparing the old and the new standards by taking a helicopter view. After reflecting these changes in your organisation’s reporting, a gap-analysis can provide knowledge on what is missing. As some organisations might have only just gotten their heads around G4, it might seem like a big effort to make the transition to GRI SRS. Fortunately several fundamental concepts in the GRI G4 guidelines have been carried over into the new standards. However, as the time to make the transition is short (only two reports away), we advise starting as soon as possible.


Nick de Ruiter is a partner at Sustainalize. He is a specialist in CSR strategy setting and performance monitoring.

Alissa Daurer-Stolker & Mart van Kuijk are consultants at Sustainalize. They specialise in CSR reporting and international benchmarks.