The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Home / news / GRI Universal Standards 2021: the main changes

GRI Universal Standards 2021: the main changes

Good news – continued ease of use

The good news is that the presentation of the GRI Standards has not changed.

This means that existing users of GRI Standards, are able and can continue to see very clearly, what a requirement is (information that must be reported). This is essential because if you have been trained to use the GRI Standards 2016 you will be able to easily locate the requirements you need to comply with. A mapping document is available from GRI that clearly shows all the changes made.

The effective date of the GRI Universal Standards 2021 is 1 January 2023. GRI Standards 2016 can be used for sustainability reports and information with a data cut-off date 1 January 2022. What this means is that you are able to publish in 2023 your sustainability report with data from 1/1/2021 to 31/12/2021.


GRI Standards 2021
Materiality is now presented in one location GRI 3 (2021): Material topics. One of the most important aspects of materiality in GRI 2021 is that the concept of double materiality is clearly defined. As with GRI Standards 2016 a business must focus on all its important impacts, whether they influence business success or not.

Material topics include human rights. Highlighting human rights impacts in the definition of material topics ensures that they are not overlooked, and it better supports organisations to report on how they meet their responsibility to respect human rights.

An organisation that has determined its material topics based on the significance of its economic, environmental, and social impacts, as required by GRI 101 (2016), is well prepared to comply with the requirements in GRI 1: Foundation 2021.

Less general disclosures (30 total) to be in Accordance with the GRI Standards

With GRI Standards 2021 reporters can choose between two reporting options:
1) report in accordance with the GRI Standards, and
2) reference the GRI Standards.

You are required to provide data to address 30 disclosures in GRI 2 -general-disclosures-2021. This differs from GRI standards 2016, where reporters chose from two options that no longer exist: GRI Core (33 disclosures) and GRI Comprehensive (56 disclosures).

Disclosures in the Topic Standards have not changed
What has not changed: Very importantly, disclosures in the Topic Standards have not changed. How you report for example emissions, waste and other topic-specific standards, remains the same.

What has changed in topic-specific disclosures:
1) Human rights-related disclosures are now embedded in the Universal Standards and are mandatory for all reporting organisations.
2) They are now called GRI Topic Standards. They are no longer organised into the 200 (Economic topics), 300 (Environmental topics), and 400 (Social topics) series.
3) Updating the Introduction, Glossary, and Bibliography to align with the changes made to these sections in the Universal Standards.
4) Revised terminology. For instance, ‘reporting requirements’ are now called ‘requirements’ and ‘Topic-specific disclosures’ are now ‘topic disclosures’.
5) Removing references to concepts that no longer exist (such as ‘topic Boundary’ which is covered with due diligence – see below).

Management approach
Disclosures 103-1, 103-2, and 103-3 from GRI 103: Management Approach 2016 have been combined into one disclosure and revised to bring the requirements in line with the expectation of due diligence contained in key instruments. See Disclosure 3-3 in GRI 3: Material Topics 2021.

Due diligence
Is the process to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how the organisation addresses its actual and potential negative impacts. The organisation should consider actual and potential impacts that it causes or contributes to through its activities, as well as actual and potential impacts that are directly linked to its operations, products, or services by its business relationships.
For example: An online retailer can claim that they only own electric vehicles. The business is also responsible for the tens of thousands of packages that are distributed by external courier services. How are they assessing? How are they reducing this potentially negative impact that is a result of their operations?


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

Most importantly, you will gain the knowledge to use the GRI Standards, project manage your own first-class sustainability report and:

  • Identify your most important impacts on the Environment, Economy and Society
  • Begin taking solid, focused, all-round sustainability action ASAP