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Input Requested by October 9 on Revisions to Two GRI Standards

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GRI 303: Water — used by organizations to report on impacts related to water, and GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety — used by organizations to report on impacts related to worker health and safety — are two of the GRI Standards currently being updated.

Both of these revised draft standards are now available for public input through October 9, 2017.

Developed in the public interest through a robust, multi-stakeholder process, the GRI Standards are widely trusted and used around the world. They are embedded in more than 100 policy instruments in 50 countries and regions, including 35 stock exchanges. As such, these two standards have a significant influence on the information that organizations report about their impacts around the world.

Per its formal due process, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), GRI’s independent standard-setting body, appointed a multi-stakeholder Project Working Groups to review GRI 303: Water and GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety.  The Working Groups each include global experts with diverse experience in reporting and evaluating information about the impacts organizations have on water and occupational health and safety. More information, including biographies, can be found at Water - 15 global experts, and OHS - 15 global experts.

The Project Working Groups have now updated the content of the standards, bringing the proposed revised draft standards in line with internationally-agreed best practices in water and occupational health and safety reporting.

Changes to the Standard, suggested by each Project Working Group and incorporated into the revised standards, include:

Water (revised draft Standard)

  • Reporting water consumption in addition to water withdrawal is now required, with an emphasis on reporting in water-stressed areas. This aims to focus reporting on an organization’s overall water impacts, especially in sensitive areas.
  • Effluents and discharge content (previously part of GRI 306: Effluents and Waste) is now incorporated into GRI 303. This aims to provide a full picture of water impacts, from withdrawal to consumption, to discharge. The Standard has also therefore been retitled GRI 303: Water and Effluents.
  • More detail is now required on water discharges – including reporting discharges by level of treatment or quality, as well as substances of concern.
  • Reporting additional water and effluents related management approach is now required. These additional requirements focus on specific elements of an effective management approach for water and effluents, including how water is managed at a local level, and as a shared resource.
  • There is a new disclosure for reporting on water impacts in the supply chain and related to products and services. Adding this disclosure gives an additional opportunity for organizations to report about significant water impacts elsewhere in the value chain.
  • Reporting on water recycled and reused is now recommended, but not required. Although recycling and reuse can be an important part of managing water, the total impacts are now also covered by reporting on water consumption.
  • More extensive guidance has been added throughout the Standard, including sample tables for reporting data.

“Transparency on water is important for a lot of reasons,” says Peter Schulte, a Project Working Group member from the Pacific Institute. “There’s the more obvious and direct fact that it helps keep them accountable. It helps us compare companies and see if they are making progress. But I think there is also a helpful component of showing companies how to think about water and their impacts. These new metrics can point them in the right direction about how to think about water.”

Occupational Health & Safety (revised draft Standard)

  • New management approach requirements covering specific OHS management components, such as the use of management systems, hazard identification, risk assessment, hierarchy of controls, worker participation, consultation, information, and training.
  • New leading indicators looking at how many workers are covered by a management system and how many have access to occupational health services.
  • Significantly revised disclosures on work-related injury and illness, which now include improved methodologies for calculating and comparing injury and illness data. These disclosures now place a greater emphasis on identifying health and safety hazards and high-potential incidents, and explaining the causes of incidents and the corrective actions taken.
  • A new disclosure on worker health promotion, which looks at whether workers have access to voluntary programs to address major non-work related health risks, such as smoking or unhealthy diets.

“This Standard aims to align with other international health and safety management standards that are being developed right now, and builds on international consensus around the related ILO conventions,” says Larry Stoffman, a Project Working Group member from the Canadian Labor Congress. Key references for the revised content include the upcoming ISO 45001 standard, instruments from the ILO and WHO, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Why These Changes?
These proposed changes aim to improve the quality and utility of information reported by an organization on their water and health & safety impacts, helping them to provide comparable and action-ready information.

“The revised Water Standard will help reporters to be clearer about the impact they have on water, at whatever stage in their value chain, and also about what actions they need to take to address those impacts,” says Project Working Group member Jan-Willem Vosmeer of Heineken. The revised standard will thus enable organizations to be more transparent about their water impacts, and to understand where improvements can be made.

Kathy Seabrook, a Project Working Group member from the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, also notes, “Organizations are not reporting on occupational health and safety, and when they do report it’s not consistent, and it’s not comparable. So, what GRI is doing here is essential to ensure reporting comparability and consistency from organization to organization around the world.”

Have Your Say
Are you an expert on water-related or OHS-related impacts, or do you have experience reporting on them? Now that the draft standards have been proposed, the GSSB wants to hear from you!

During this public consultation phase, stakeholders are asked to review and comment on the rigor, feasibility and utility of the revised content, and the data that it will generate. All feedback can be provided online via the GRI Standards public consultation platform by October 9.

To find out more about the proposed changes to the standards, or to provide your comments on the draft Standard:

  • Webinars on GRI 303: Water and GRI 403: OHS were held on September 26, 2017. Watch recorded versions of the webinars or join a regional consultation workshop on the GRI Standards website.
  • Send any further questions about the draft of GRI 303: Water and Effluents or the standard-setting process to water@globalreporting.org.
  • Send any further questions about the draft of GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety or the standard-setting process to ohs@globalreporting.org.