Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): A guide to sustainable reporting

What is the Global Reporting Initiative?

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), founded in 1997, is a leading organization that promotes sustainability reporting worldwide. As a non-profit foundation, the GRI develops standards that support companies, governments and other organizations in transparently presenting their environmental, social and economic impacts.

How does the GRI enable standardized sustainability reports?

By providing GRI Standards, a comprehensive framework for reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative enables organizations to communicate their sustainability performance in a comparable and understandable way. These standards have established themselves as a valuable guide and basis for credible sustainability reports.

What are the GRI Standards?

The GRI Standards have a modular structure and offer companies the flexibility to tailor their reports to specific needs and objectives. There are three areas and a total of 120 indicators. They include basic reporting principles, specific indicators for different aspects of sustainability and detailed implementation guidance.

  • Universal standards: These disclosures are mandatory for every organization that reports in accordance with the GRI. They include general information about the organization's business and material topics and form the basis for the other standards.
  • Sector-specific standards: The GRI is developing a total of 40 sector-specific standards and has already started with sectors that have the greatest impact. The following standards have been available since June 2022: Oil and Gas (GRI 11), Coal (GRI 12) and Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries (GRI 13).
  • Topic-specific standards: The third standard retains a similar structure to the previous GRI standards in that it provides disclosures on specific topics such as waste, tax, etc. When reporting, an organization must select the topic-specific standards that correspond to its previously defined material topics (universal standards).

Global Reporting Initiative in practice: advantages for companies

Applying the GRI Standards helps companies to document their sustainability efforts clearly and soundly. This not only strengthens trust among stakeholders, but also improves the company's image and reputation in the market.

Is the GRI mandatory?

Application of the GRI Standards is not mandatory. They serve as a voluntary framework that companies and organizations worldwide can use to structure and standardize their sustainability reporting. Although the GRI Standards are not required by law, they are considered best practice by many organizations and widely adopted to promote transparency, credibility and comparability in sustainability performance reporting. In some cases, however, the application of the GRI Standards may be required by industry-specific regulations or as part of sustainability initiatives and certifications.

Global Reporting Initiative and other sustainability standards

While the GRI Standards provide a comprehensive set of tools for sustainability reporting, other guidelines and standards also exist, such as the German Sustainability Code (DNK) or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG). The GRI promotes integration and complementarity with these standards in order to facilitate holistic sustainability reporting.

The role of the Global Reporting Initiative for forward-looking companies

The Global Reporting Initiative plays a central role in the global movement towards greater sustainability in business. By providing uniform standards for sustainability reporting, the GRI enables companies to responsibly manage and communicate their impact on the environment and society. Compliance with the GRI standards is therefore essential for companies that want to position themselves as pioneers in sustainability.