The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has launched the fourth generation (G4) of its sustainability reporting guidelines.

The launch of G4, a sustainability framework widely used worldwide, took place at the GRI’s 2013 Global Sustainability Conference today. G4 has been revised and enhanced in order to reflect important current and future trends in the sustainability reporting landscape. It enables all companies and organisations to report on their economic, environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

G4 places greater emphasis on the concept of materiality to encourage reporters to provide only disclosures and indicators that are material to their business, on the basis of a dialogue with their stakeholders.

GRI said these improvements will allow reporting organisations and report users alike to concentrate on the economic, environmental, and social impacts that "really matter" and should result in reports that are more strategic, focused and credible, as well as "easier for stakeholders to navigate".

In addition to enhancing the relevance and quality of standalone sustainability reports, the GRI hopes the G4 will be a "powerful tool for generating material sustainability information for inclusion in integrated reports".

Other key enhancements include: increased user-friendliness and greater accessibility for reporting beginners, harmonisation with other important global frameworks including, the OECD MNE Guidelines, the United Nations Global Compact Principles, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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"In today’s world, the increasing demand for sustainability information is inevitable. Increasingly governments, stock exchanges, investors, and society at large are calling on companies to be transparent about their sustainability goals and performance. But this demand is also a demand for sustainability related information that matters. This is what G4 is about," GRI deputy chief executive Nelmara Arbex explained.

"The robust sustainability report of today must be far more than a compliance exercise. It is a tool for demonstrating the effort reporters have made in integrating sustainability into their core business strategy, with benefits for business and society alike. By reporting based on G4, organisations can identify critical risks and main opportunities, which will spark operational improvement and innovation, focused on what really matters."

G4 is the culmination of two years of stakeholder consultation and dialogue. GRI worked with 120 specialists such as field experts, labour, business and civil society from around the world and launched two public consultations one in 2011 and 2012, which generated a total of more than 2,500 responses.

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Related link
Global Reporting Initiative