C10.3.3.1 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)


The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a large network of thousands of experts, in dozens of countries. It promotes economic, environmental and social sustainability.

One of their activities has been to develop a sustainability reporting framework. GRI states that it “promotes and develops this standardized approach to reporting to stimulate demand for sustainability information – which will benefit reporting organizations and those who use report information alike.”

The Framework enables all organizations to measure and report their economic, environmental, social and governance performance – the four key areas of sustainability.

The Reporting Framework includes the Reporting Guidelines, Sector Guidelines and other resources. This enables greater organizational transparency about economic, environmental, social and governance performance. This transparency and accountability builds stakeholders’ trust in organizations, and can lead to many other benefits. Thousands of organizations, of all sizes and sectors, use GRI’s Framework in order to understand and communicate their sustainability performance.

The GRI Reporting Framework is intended to serve as a generally accepted framework for reporting on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social performance. It is designed for use by organizations of any size, sector, or location. It takes into account the practical considerations faced by a diverse range of organizations – from small enterprises to those with extensive and geographically dispersed operations.


The GRI Reporting Framework contains general and sector-specific content that has been agreed by a wide range of stakeholders around the world to be generally applicable for reporting an organization’s sustainability performance.


The main elements are:


Sustainability reporting guidelines (the Guidelines) are the cornerstone of the framework. These consist of Principles for defining report content and ensuring the quality of reported information. They also include Standard Disclosures made up of performance indicators and other disclosure items, as well as guidance on specific technical topics in reporting. The fifth edition (the G5) were published in October 2016.


Indicator protocols exist for each of the performance indicators contained in the Guidelines. These protocols provide definitions, compilation guidance, and other information to assist report preparers and to ensure consistency in the interpretation of the performance indicators. Users of the Guidelines should also use the Indicator Protocols.


Sector supplements complement the Guidelines with interpretations and guidance on how to apply them in a given sector, and include sector-specific performance indicators. Applicable sector supplements should be used in addition to rather than in place of the Guidelines.


Technical protocols are created to provide guidance on issues in reporting, such as setting the report boundary. They are designed to be used in conjunction with the Guidelines and sector supplements and cover issues that face most organisations during the reporting process.


Potential benefits

  • The GRI Guidelines provide a holistic framework that addresses broad performance – social, environmental and economic – as to how an organisation is reporting to stakeholders.
  • They guide an organisation’s approach to  ‘proving’ its impact.
  • GRI is used widely internationally as a generally accepted reporting framework and, as such, provides a method for increased comparability.
  • Organisations can use GRI reporting to help measure and benchmark performance, both against their own targets and externally. Management can use the GRI indicators to encourage employees to understand and contribute to progressively better performance.
  • The Guidelines are flexible and can be used in different sectors and geographical contexts.


Potential limitations

  • Adhering to the Guidelines can be labour  intensive and full reporting may represent a challenge for smaller organisations.
  • Their history of use in the third sector is limited and some of the language and approaches are more familiar and appropriate for multinational corporations.
  • They provide guidance, but not accreditation, a mark or external evaluation unless combined with other tools, such as an assurance standard.
  • Their main focus is ‘sustainability’, e.g. reporting external impact but not necessarily focusing on positive outcomes or impacts.


The GRI have produced a guidance document on the G3 reporting guidelines, which is available here: G3-Sustainability-Reporting-Guidelines.


Further information is available from the GRI website: https://www.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx


The Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are available from their website:



This is a company’s reporting to the GRI standards, fully available online: https://www.globalreporting.org/standards