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GRI Director of Capital Markets Engagement Siobhan Cleary

August 13, 2020

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which provides an ESG reporting framework, is seeking public comment for revisions to its Universal Standards. To understand why they’re doing this and why it’s important for corporate sustainability reporting, we talked with Siobhan Cleary, Director of Capital Markets Engagement at GRI.

This is an interview with GRI. NYSE presents the information for informational purposes, but does not endorse, represent nor warrant the accuracy of the narrative, which relies solely on material provided by GRI.

Tell us a bit more about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.

The GRI Standards are the most widely-used sustainability reporting standards globally. They provide a common language and credible set of disclosures for any organization to communicate effectively about their impacts on the economy, the environment, and people. The GRI Standards are available for all organizations as a free public good at With the GRI Standards, organizations of all sizes and sectors can report on their impacts and show how they contribute to sustainable development.

And now your revised Universal Standards are out for public consultation. What are the Universal Standards?

The Universal Standards are the foundation of the GRI Standards and apply to every organization that report their impacts based on the GRI Standards. The revised Universal Standards are as follows:

  • GRI 101: Introduces the GRI Standards system and explains how they are used.
  • GRI 102: Covers disclosures for contextual information about the reporting organization.
  • GRI 103: Includes guidance for identifying material topics, with disclosures on reporting how they are managed.

So what changes are being proposed and why?

GRI’s Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) initiated the review of the Universal Standards in March 2019. The objective was to ensure the GRI Standards are as relevant and comprehensive as possible, while reflecting the latest developments in responsible business conduct and respect for human rights. To conduct this work, GRI convened an expert, multistakeholder panel representing the voice of investors, companies, academia, civil society, labor and government. Among other things, the revisions increase alignment between the GRI Standards and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD’s guidelines and tools on responsible business conduct.

More specifically, the proposed updates to the three Universal Standards include:

  • A more focused approach to identifying material topics, based on the organization’s most significant impacts.
  • Updated content covering responsible business conduct¿and¿due diligence, including respect for human rights.
  • Revising how organizations use the GRI Standards for their sustainability reporting, with clearly set out requirements and a new structure.¿

Who should be responding to the public consultation?

These revisions impact all users of corporate sustainability reporting data – from investors, to civil society, to companies. We therefore encourage everyone who is interested in what is reported, how it is disclosed and the quality of the information provided to respond. Specifically, the GSSB is looking for feedback from all stakeholders on the clarity, completeness, feasibility, and relevance of the proposed changes.

This is your opportunity to make sure GRI reporting works for you.

How should people respond and what is the timeline for responding?

You can access the Exposure Draft and the Explanatory Memorandum on the GRI Standards webpage. The deadline for responding is 9 September 2020. In order to respond we ask people to fill out this online survey.

And if people need more information?

People can watch an introductory video explaining the changes to the Universal Standards and access other relevant resources on the GRI Standards webpage.

Please visit the GRI Standards webpage for engagement opportunities that GRI will schedule throughout the public consultation.

People are also welcome to reach out to [email protected].