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Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards

The GRI Standards provide universal guidelines for sustainability reporting.


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Please cite this register in conjunction with the following article:
Hummel, K., Jobst, D., 2024. An Overview of Corporate Sustainability Reporting Legislation in the European Union. Accounting in Europe. DOI: 10.1080/17449480.2024.2312145


The GRI Standards (or prior versions of the standards) are currently the most commonly used sustainability reporting standards worldwide. According to KPMG, 78 percent of the 250 largest global companies and 68 percent of the largest 100 companies across 58 countries reported in accordance with the GRI Standards in 2022.

A consolidated set of the GRI Standards can be downloaded here.

Institutional arrangement

1997Founded in 1997, the GRI was among the first organizations to provide universal guidelines for sustainability reporting.
2000The first version of the GRI guidelines was published in 2000 with continuous updates in subsequent years.
2014The GRI set up a new governance structure establishing the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), which is responsible for setting sustainability reporting standards.
2016The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards were launched to set the first global standards for sustainability reporting.
October 2021The GSSB launched a major update to the GRI Universal Standards, which became effective starting in 2023.

Scope and structure

The GRI Standards have a modular structure comprising three sets of standards:

  • the GRI Universal Standards,

  • the GRI Topic Standards and

  • the GRI Sector Standards.

The GRI Universal Standards consist of ‘GRI 1: Foundation 2021’, ‘GRI 2: General Disclosures 2021’, and ‘GRI 3: Material Topics 2021’.

  • GRI 1 outlines the purpose of the GRI Standards and defines four key concepts and eight reporting principles. It also specifies the scope of reporting, distinguishing between reporting 'in accordance with the GRI Standards' and reporting 'with reference to the GRI Standards'.

  • GRI 2 specifies disclosures of the reporting organization’s structure, activities and workers, governance, strategy, policies, practices, and stakeholder engagement. Stakeholders are defined as ‘individuals or groups that have interests that are affected or could be affected by an organization’s activities’. It also specifies how to report on restatements of information and external assurance provided.

  • GRI 3 outlines the standards’ concept of materiality and describes the process for determining material topics. Material topics are defined as those ‘that represent the organization’s most significant impacts on the economy, environment, and people, including impacts on their human rights’. Thus, the GRI Standards focus exclusively on impact materiality.

The GRI Topic Standards prescribe detailed reporting requirements for all sustainability-related topics, including economic matters, environmental matters and employee-related, human-rights-related, customer-related and social matters.

The GRI Sector Standards indicate sector-specific disclosures for topics that are likely to be material in each sector. Sector Standards have thus far been published for the oil and gas industry, the coal industry, agriculture, aquaculture and fishing, as well as the mining industry.