When the GRI released their new G4 guidelines earlier this year, there was some trepidation that they would be more burdensome for corporations; requiring more disclosures and longer, more detailed reports.
After attending a 7.5 hour training on the new GRI G4 guidelines last week, I am convinced that this will not be so, and that the changes to the guidelines are largely positive and on-trend with where CSR is headed.
Every sustainability reporter has a slightly different take on the most important changes the G4 guidelines bring. The three most significant positive changes I see with the new G4 guidelines are:
1) Only reporting on what’s material. This is not a new concept for the GRI guidelines, but the focus on material issues ONLY will help reporting organizations to really focus their reporting and supporting CSR strategies.
2) Reporting on your supply chain. The new guidelines encourage companies to identify and disclose where in their supply chains their impacts occur. This is right on pace with the current movement in CSR today toward understanding and reducing impacts at the supplier level.
3) Reporting “in accordance” rather than to a particular application level. I am glad to see the A,B,C ranking replaced by the “in accordance” levels of CORE and COMPREHENSIVE. Reporting in accordance with CORE requirements is somewhat akin to reporting at a C level, and COMPREHENSIVE to an A level, however removing the letters removes the inevitable feeling of being “graded”.
This said, implementing the new guidelines will require organizations to do some new work. They will need to ask some new questions, and revisit their CSR strategy to respond to them. Rather than being perceived as a burdensome task, however, it’s our hope that reconvening the group to evaluate their CSR strategy from a different perspective will be seen by reporting organizations as a positive opportunity to increase the health and strength of their organizations.