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Rolling Out the New GRI Framework: G4 Sector Supplements

By Nancy Mancilla

Over the years, Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sector Supplements have aided in providing more specific guidance to organizations who may find the GRI Guidelines too general for the challenges faced on a daily basis. As there are many core performance indicators from the standard guidelines that have been modified to reflect shared sectoral issues, there are also completely individualized KPIs that are to be used in conjunction with the larger set of guidelines.

Current supplements include those established for Airport Operators, Construction & Real Estate, Event Organizers, Electric Utilities, Financial Services, Food Processing, Media, Mining & Minerals, NGOs, and Oil & Gas. Pilot versions developed prior to the G3.1 Guidelines include Automotive, Logistics & Transportation, Public Agencies, Telecommunications, and Apparel & Footwear.  These documents present much more definition than the G3.1 alone can provide, which could really strengthen reporting efforts - unfortunately, they haven’t been utilized enough.

Much like the development of the 4th generation of the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the sector supplements have each been developed by a multistakeholder process over a two-year period that has included two public commentary periods.  With GRI’s G3.1, sector supplements were a requirement for all A Level reporters, if one existed for the particular industry.  B Level reporters were able to choose up to six performance indicators from a sector supplement and 14 from the standard G3.1 Guidelines, while Level C reporters could choose three indicators from the sector supplements and seven from the G3.1 Guidelines, in order to meet minimum level reporting requirements.

After having gone through such a rigorous development process, one would think that the choice to utilize these specialized documents would be a sure value-add. So why are they so underutilized? Could it be that all of these features that make up the framework require so much interpretation that trying to navigate one more document perplexes reporters when attempting to determine what actually counts towards meeting basic level requirements?

Luckily, those serving on the G4 development committee took note of this and have been working to try and simplify the process. By emphasizing the importance of "materiality," there will be no more distinction between "core" and "additional" indicators within the general set of guidelines, nor will there be a requirement for Level A reporters to use sector supplements since the current levels will be done away with. Likewise, we can expect to see more simplified sector-specific guidance that folds into the materiality process. Once the dust clears from the G4 hysteria, we hope to also see an update of these documents.

Disclaimer: The thoughts shared here should not in any way be taken as factual evidence supporting expected G4 changes. They are based on the thoughts of ISOS, a GRI-affiliated organization in the U.S. that is worthy of sharing perspectives of how possible changes may be implemented upon the release of the final G4 document at GRI's Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability & Transparency May 22-24, 2013. This piece is part 3 in a series of weekly postings leading up to the global conference and will be revisited after the release of the G4. Read the rest of the articles here.


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