9 things you need to know about GRI's G4

G4 launched yesterday at the GRI Global Conference in Amsterdam. As a GRI-Certified Trainer, BrownFlynn is at the release event -- and got a sneak peek at the new system ahead of time. Here are nine changes we noted during our first review:

1. Materiality is a must

In G4, organizations will be required to report only what matters -- and where it matters. Though it was never the intent of the G3/G3.1 framework, the perception of reporting options over the last few years has centered on the difference in the number of indicators required for different levels of reporting. While materiality is not new, the G4 framework more explicitly requires reporting efforts to center on materiality -- impacts, risks and opportunities. The first step G4 requires is a systematic materiality assessment followed by disclosure of what those material topics are. What was previously known as the Technical Protocol for Determining Report Content (previously an appendix to the G3.1 guidelines) is now front and center in G4 within a simplified set of instructions for planning a reporting process.

2.  ABC gets a D

The Application Levels A, B and C were removed from the framework. A company now has two options (levels) for reporting "in accordance with" the GRI guidelines: "core" and "comprehensive" reports. The most substantial difference between a core and a comprehensive report will be the number of governance and strategy disclosures.

3. The "plus" is no longer part of the equation

The "+" previously used to signal external report assurance has been removed. GRI has added a column to the GRI Content Index that requires explanation of the assurance scope on a line-by-line basis. It will now be easier for readers to determine what specifically has been assured within a report. Interestingly, the guidance GRI gives for the assurance process has not changed. The framework still recommends that assurance providers assess reports for adherence to the GRI principles (which have also remained unchanged).

4.  Simplified into two books

G4 is consolidated into two "books." Book 1 focuses on reporting principles and is designed to provide context, planning and summary information for the organization using the guidelines. Book 2 is an implementation manual containing the guidance for material topics. As our new friend Suzi Ibbotson (from Lodestar, a U.K.-Certified GRI Training Partner) noted, Book 1 tells you how to report, while Book 2 tells you what to report.

Image and graphic of seasons change provided by ischte/Shutterstock

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