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What Is GRI Sustainability Reporting and How Do You Do It?

19 March, 2021

What are GRI Standards? Who sets them? Here’s a general overview of GRI sustainability reporting and how you can simplify the process for your organisation.

Written by Rio ESG
What Is GRI Sustainability Reporting and How Do You Do It?

GRI is one of the most commonly used ESG (environmental, social, and governance) reporting frameworks. But like most ESG frameworks, it can be complicated and confusing, especially for those who are new to the world of sustainability reporting.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of GRI reporting, including a general overview of the GRI Standards and how you can simplify the reporting process for your organisation.

What is GRI sustainability reporting?

Founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1997, GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) is an international independent standards organisation that helps companies, governments, and other organisations understand and report on their ESG impact.

GRI sustainability reporting refers to the process of collecting and disclosing ESG-related information according to the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines.

What are GRI Standards?

GRI Standards, which are set by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), help organisations understand and disclose their sustainability impacts. 

In the words of GRI, the Standards “create a common language for organisations — large or small, private or public — to report on their sustainability impacts in a consistent and credible way.”

The Standards are divided into different modules: universal standards (which apply to all topics), and topic-specific standards that cover different economic, environmental, and social impacts.

gri_overviewOverview of GRI Standards. Source: GRI

In addition, the GSSB is also developing sector disclosures that aim to offer more specific sector-based guidance for high-impact industries. Standards currently under development as part of the sector program include:

Each GRI Standard relates to one specific topic, and includes requirements, recommendations, and guidance for using and implementing the standard. 

For example, as of May 2020, the standard “GRI 302: Energy” lays out five energy-related disclosures:

  • Energy consumption within the organisation
  • Energy consumption outside of the organisation
  • Energy intensity
  • Reduction of energy consumption
  • Reduction in energy requirements of products and services

Each of the five disclosures includes specific required metrics, as well as recommendations and guidance for calculating those metrics, making them more transparent, and applying them to reporting. 

You can download the full list of GRI Standards, as well as other resources, directly from the GRI website.

What are the GRI G4 reporting guidelines?

In 2013, the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines for reporting were in their fourth iteration (hence “G4”). However, GRI has since transitioned to “GRI Standards,” which have superseded the G4 guidelines. 

Organisations that plan to disclose using the GRI framework should follow the latest versions of GRI Standards.

What organisations use GRI Standards for reporting?

GRI is one of the most widely adopted ESG reporting frameworks, especially among large organisations. In fact, 73% of G250 companies (the world's 250 largest companies by revenue) use GRI Standards to report on ESG. 

Most organisations align their annual CSR or Sustainability reports with the GRI Standards as a way to showcase disclosure to their stakeholders.

To keep track of who reports using the framework, GRI has a searchable database, the Sustainability Disclosure Database. Notable GRI reporting companies include Adidas, BP, and Vodafone, just to name a few.

Can GRI software help with reporting?

If you’re looking for a GRI Standards tool to help you keep track of your sustainability metrics and manage reporting, consider a software solution like Rio.


Rio is an intelligent and accessible sustainability software platform that helps businesses and individuals become more sustainable through data analysis, learning, and governance. The user-friendly system can automatically ingest data from other platforms, generate GRI reports, and provide intelligent sustainability recommendations based on your data.

Want to learn more about ESG frameworks?

DOWNLOAD THE ESG FRAMEWORK GUIDE