Integrated reporting, widely considered the future of corporate reporting, brings together information on an organization’s strategy, governance, performance, and prospects in a way that discloses the economic, social, governance, and environmental context within which it operates. The result is an Integrated Report that offers clear and concise communication of the company’s ability to create value over the short, medium, and long term.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations report their impacts (in the economic, environmental, and social context) and this is done by providing them with a common reporting language that allows a company to communicate its impacts, compare with peers or competitors, and continuously improve.
Therefore, the GRI helps companies communicate their sustainability performance, and the framework is categorized to ensure this. This requires the reporting organization to align its integrated report with the standards and framework of the GRI. To help with alignment and for readers of integrated reports to understand the information, companies often include a GRI Content Index or Annex in their reports which include GRI disclosures along with specific GRI codes. This Index allows stakeholders, researchers, and others to easily know where to look for specific information in a report.
Before moving on to the GRI framework itself, it is important to note a few points. Companies may choose to align the sustainability section of their Integrated Annual Report with GRI combined with other standards such as SASB, CDP or the UN SDGs. Alternatively, they may create and release a specific Sustainability Report that is separate from the Integrated Annual Report.
GRI Standards Categories for Integrated Reports
The GRI Standards are generally split into 3 categories which are Universal Standards, Topic-Specific Standards, and Sector Standards. The framework is split based on a series of codes that delves deep into each topic and are as follows:
100 Series – The GRI 100 series include universal standards and are general disclosures. This helps companies to identify material topics and layout principles to use in the creation of a report. The 100 series will also include disclosures on the organization’s specific context, including its size, activities, governance, and stakeholder engagement. All of this helps companies and stakeholders better understand the organization’s approach to the different topics that are being reported.
200 Series – Economic – In the GRI Standards context, this is NOT focused on the financial condition of an organization, but rather on the impacts on the economic condition of its stakeholders, or the organization’s impacts on economic status at the national, global, or local level.
300 Series – Environment – The environmental aspect of sustainability concerns the company’s impact on living and non-living factors. This may include land, air, water, and natural ecosystems.
400 Series – Social – The Social aspect of sustainability in the context of GRI standards, concerns the company’s impacts on the communities or society, within which it operates.
The different series covers a large variety of topics, including
Economic - Economic Performance, Market Presence, Tax, etc.
Environmental - Supplier Environmental Assessment, Materials, Energy, etc.
Social - Employment, Occupational Health & Safety, Diversity & Equal Opportunity etc.
The GRI standards also take a step further by looking at sector-specific disclosures. The sector standards help provide information on the most material topics within a sector, thereby meeting stakeholder expectations on sustainability reporting within a specific sector. These are split into 4 priority groups :
Basic materials & needs
Transport, Infrastructure, and Tourism
Other Services and light manufacturing
5 Companies that create Integrated Reports using the GRI Framework
The following five companies are examples of those who regularly create and publish integrated annual reports based on GRI standards and/or combined with other standards. Without going into too much detail, we give brief descriptions of each.
JSW Energy Ltd
The JSW Energy Ltd Integrated Annual Report for 2020-21 is comprehensive in its sustainability reporting. It covers a large number of material topics, including Ethics and Integrity, Governance, Organisational Profile, Reporting Practice, Stakeholder Engagement, Strategy, Economic Performance, Indirect Economic Impacts, Materials, Energy, Water and Effluents, Emissions, Waste, Environmental Compliance, Employment, Occupational and Health Safety, Training and Education, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Non-discrimination, Child Labour, Forced or Compulsory Labour, Local Communities, Socioeconomic Compliance.
Each material factor is covered either in the sustainability section of their integrated annual report or as a separate sustainability report. As can be seen, each factor is material to JSW energy and was identified by completing an external material assessment to ensure transparent and unbiased data is used. It is important to note that material factors may change from one year to the next and are continuously reviewed and improved.
In a similar manner, Maruti Suzuki has also published a comprehensive GRI content Index with their FY 21 Integrated Annual Report with the company’s focus being more on universal, environmental, and social standards. What is interesting to note with automotive companies, however, is that they tend to disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and not Scope 3, as this would need information and data on their customers' (who are end-users of their products) emissions. Getting information on customers who have bought cars and their emissions is quite complex and many global standards continue to work on finding ways to help industries such as automotive to find ways to report Scope 3 emissions.
The FY 21 Integrated report from Wipro uses a combination of GRI standards and the Integrated Reporting <IR> Framework. The company has taken pains to have an entire section on ‘Capitals’, as per the IR Framework, with specific sections on Financial Capital, Intellectual Capital, Social and Relationship Capital, Natural Capital, and Human Capital. More specifically under the section Business Responsibility Report (BRR), the organization clearly states that it is one of the early adopters of GRI and <IR> with a clear focus on stakeholder engagement, materiality assessments and adopting comprehensive and responsible approaches to their business. The organization has internal and external audits through frameworks like ISO 14001, ISO 45001, and GRI. Further, they also carry out assurances against GRI, IIRC, and TCFD.
Tata Consultancy Services’ FY 21 Integrated Annual Report has dedicated quite a few pages to its GRI Annexures, which include descriptions of the report, stakeholder engagement framework, identification of material topics, and the GRI Content index. Covering many of the topics similar to JSW Energy, TCS has focused on GRI Foundation, general disclosures (organizational profile, strategy, ethics, and integrity, governance, stakeholder engagement, reporting practice), Economic Performance, Energy, Water, Emissions, Effluents and waste, Employment, Labour/Management Relations, Occupational Health and Safety, Training and Education, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and Local Communities.
Considering the size and scope of Reliance Industries, the company has combined multiple frameworks in the creation of its expansive Integrated Annual Report 2020-21 and this includes <IR> Framework, GRI Standards, National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs), United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and 13 other frameworks were also referred to. As per the <IR> framework, Reliance Integrated has taken an integrated approach and split its ESG and sustainability performance and goals based on Natural, Human, Manufactured, Intellectual, Financial, Social, and Relationship Capital. As with the others, Reliance also got external assurance providers to ensure that the sustainability data reported is as per GRI standards.
All these frameworks can seem complicated and may take longer to understand and implement. In addition to having external assurance providers, sustainability teams, and experts, companies would still need one other element to ensure that all that information and data is conveyed in a clear, concise manner that allows the reader to truly understand the information.
A specialized design agency, like Report Yak, that has expertise in helping organizations map out their GRI data in the report so that stakeholders and readers can get information quickly and easily, is a huge advantage. Check out some of our award-winning annual reports here and get in touch with us to discuss your next report!