GRI Universal Standards


GRI Universal Standards

The global benchmark for sustainability reporting that enables organisations to understand and report on their impacts

For a few decades, organisations report on their non-financial impacts using the widely used Standards from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). In 2021, GRI published its revised Universal Standards. These Standards come into effect for reports published on or after January 1 2023.

The GRI Standards are gradually evolving, adopting the best from other instruments and frameworks. The GRI Universal Standards updated in 2021 reflect the expectations for responsible business conduct in authoritative intergovernmental instruments such as the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, the International Labour Standards, and the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) Global Governance Principles.

The updated GRI Standards 2023 consists of a modular system set of three series:

  • The "Universal Standards" – apply to all organisations.
  • The new "Sector Standards" – allowing for reporting on impacts for organisations in certain sectors.
  • The "Topic Standards" – list the disclosures relevant to a particular topic.

Detailed overview of GRI changes

The changes in the new Universal Standards compared to the former version can be summarised as follows:

Dropping of “Core” and “Comprehensive” reporting options


There will no longer be an option for a company to choose between “Core” and “Comprehensive”. Reporters will report in accordance to the Standards, or with reference to GRI Standards.


Changes with former GRI 101 (new GRI 1)


GRI 1 focuses on some of the key concepts including the impacts of organisations on the economic environment and people, including on human rights as well as due diligence and stakeholders.

GRI 1 presents changes in the reporting principles eliminating the difference between content and quality principles. We have now 8 principles: accuracy, clarity, balance, comparability, completeness, timeliness, sustainability context and verifiability.

GRI 1 includes a series of revised key concepts like impact (outward), material topic (focusing on the impact perspective), due diligence (new introduction in GRI standards responding to main international instruments on due diligence such as UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and OECD Guidelines), and stakeholder (also aligned to OECD guidelines).

Changes with former GRI 102 (new GRI 2)


Many disclosures including those related to Corporate Governance and the governance body involved in ESG management are now mandatory. However, omissions are permitted for all disclosures in this Standard except for 2-1 to 2-5 (The organisation and its reporting practices).

GRI 2 contains revised disclosures for organisations to provide information on their reporting practices, governance, strategy, policies and stakeholder engagement.

The contents have been reorganised and regrouped in 5 sections with a new nomenclature: The organisation and its reporting practices, Activities and workers, Governance, Strategy, policies and practices and Stakeholder engagement. The inclusion of the Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) section is the big news here, which includes human rights policies, implementation across the organisation and relationships, and grievance mechanisms and remediation processes.

Changes with former GRI 103 (new GRI 3)


Disclosure on management approach (DMA) is still there, everything concerning materiality is more prescriptive than former GRI 103.

GRI 3 comprises of a revised approach to materiality by incorporating the concept of due diligence with improved guidance on how to determine material topics.

The criteria “Relevance to Stakeholder Decision Making” has been dropped from determining materiality. Instead, the criteria “Impact on people and planet” are applicable. That means that those topics are material where the organisation has the greatest impact.

Apart from determining the materiality of a topic it is now required to report on what the impacts are and what actions are taken to address them.

Changes to human rights reporting


Significant update included the full integration of human rights reporting, rather than being an optional, stand-alone topic Standard (what was GRI 412).

This means that, for the first time, all organisations using the GRI Standards are expected to disclose on how they respect human rights (rather than as a separate topic standard that a company is only required to report on if it determines it to be material).

New Sector Standards to be expected


GRI plans to develop around 40 sector standards. When an applicable Sector Standard is available, an organisation reporting in accordance with the GRI Standards is required to use it.

Each Sector Standard will come with a description of the sector defined for the standard and a table that lists relevant industry groupings from a number of sector classification systems.

At present, the publication of the following sector standards has been completed: GRI 11 (Oil and Gas Sector 2021), GRI 12 (Coal Sector 2022) and GRI 13 (Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fishing sectors 2022).
GRI 11 (Oil and Gas Sector 2021) and GRI 12 (Coal Sector 2022) are mandatory per 1 January 2023. GRI 13 (Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fishing sectors 2022) is mandatory per January 1 2024.

The sectors to follow are mining, food, textiles and apparel, banking, insurance, asset management, utilities, renewable energy, forestry and metal processing.

Look at the date for the release of sector standard:

Revised structure of Topic Standards


The structure of Topic Standards have been updated and are now divided into a total of 31 standards instead of the 200 (Economic), 300 (Environmental) and 400 (Social) series.


Key implications

What does this mean for organisations who will report under the Universal Standards:

  • Take a strategic decision on how to report going forward under GRI. Consider the importance of reporting to external stakeholders while also considering the upcoming other standards. For example, if your company is in scope of CSRD, consider mapping of the GRI Standards and ESRS to meet expectations of all stakeholders (e.g. provided by GRI for the first draft EFRS).
  • Conduct a double materiality analysis. Although GRI focuses on the inside out (impact materiality), it emphasises the importance of the outside in (financial materiality), and their combination – double materiality. The material topics and impacts that have been determined through the materiality process inform financial and value creation reporting. They provide input for identifying financial risks and opportunities related to the organisation’s impacts, and for financial valuation. This is why we advise to also apply an outside in perspective as this is needed for the definition of sustainability risks and opportunities, value creation and CSRD readiness.
  • Review the Sector Standards and define the impact.
  • Focus on Human Rights and anticipate on what will be expected from GRI and other future requirements.

How Deloitte can support

Deloitte can help all the companies wanting to report based on GRI Universal Standards understand where they stand relative to the GRI requirements and how to improve the quality of their disclosures. Deloitte can support in conducting gap analysis of your report against the requirements of the GRI Universal Standards and consult in aligning the report with these requirements.

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