Global Reporting Initiative G4 Guidelines: A New Screenplay For CSR Reporting

This week, CSR and sustainability professionals around the world are anxiously awaiting the launch of the G4 Guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the leading global CSR and sustainability reporting framework. The G4 Guidelines – the latest iteration since GRI released the G3.1 version in 2010 – will be announced on Wednesday at GRI’s Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting in Amsterdam and is expected to change the landscape of reporting in a meaningful way.

While it’s tough to know how the final Guidelines will look until the launch later this week, Cone Communications’ Jennifer Garner got a sneak peek at some of the significant changes in store at a recent GRI G4 kick-off event.

  • Materiality: The Star of the Show The G4 Guidelines will require companies to think more broadly about material issues and will offer guidance on how to evaluate the impacts their business creates throughout the value chain. Companies will be asked to report on impacts created throughout the value chain and include a discussion about how they are addressing those issues. However, G4 likely will not require companies to disclose comprehensive data or metrics associated with each entity along the value chain.
  • New Disclosures and Indicators: Enter Stage Right G4 will shake up Profile Disclosures and Performance Indicators around key topics such as governance and supply chain. To elevate the importance of governance relative to other economic, environment and social topics covered in the Guidelines, GRI plans to introduce new indicators around key topics such as executive compensation practices and board involvement in CSR strategy. Some current disclosures will be eliminated to reduce duplication with information provided in the SEC 10-K. New indicators are expected to require a detailed description of the supply chain, materials sourced and procurement practices.
  • Application Levels: Exit Stage Left The biggest change expected with G4 is the elimination of the Application Levels. No longer will companies select specific indicators on which to report and self-declare a Level A, B or C. Instead, a report will be “in accordance with” GRI standards only if it discloses on mandatory profile disclosures (including a clear description of how material issues were selected) and reports on the aspects and indicators related to those issues.

G4’s focus on materiality will help improve the quality of reports by framing the discussion around issues that matter most – for both business and stakeholders. And the shift away from the Application Levels will hopefully minimize the “check the box” approach some companies have taken to reporting. We want to know – what are you most excited or anxious about with the new G4 Guidelines? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter using #ConeCSR.


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