Earlier this week, BrownFlynn hosted its first GRI-Certified G4 Bridging Module at Tower City Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our participants included representatives from Fortune 100 and S&P 500 companies who had previously received our training on the G3/3.1 Guidelines.  Since GRI first released the G4 Guidelines in May, BrownFlynn has developed comprehensive training materials to clearly communicate changes in the framework to a GRI-experienced audience.  In anticipation of the G4 framework, our trainees cited the new reporting levels and the enhanced focus on materiality as their primary concerns.

The new reporting levels of Core and Comprehensive represent perhaps the most noticeable change in G4, and therefore may be the first modifications reported to senior management or around an organization.  CEOs and Boards of Directors have grown accustomed to striving for an A or A+ level report in order to impress stakeholders with transparency efforts.  Removing the grade format is a positive development, but it may present sustainability leaders with the challenge of rephrasing goals and expectations.  For example, if an organization has set a long-term goal to achieve an A, adopting G4 will require envisioning this goal using different terminology.  We emphasize that GRI’s new standards for reporting levels constitute a clarified model of GRI as a management tool.  Both Core and Comprehensive reporters will be able to demonstrate adherence to the G4 framework in a way that clearly communicates their efforts around environmental, social and governance issues.  More importantly, reporters will enjoy greater differentiation from organizations that simply cite some of the Standard Disclosures rather than preparing a report in full accordance with G4.

In addition to shifting terminology, G4 represents a transformation in how organizations will need to approach materiality.  After reviewing the updated boundary expectations, our trainees expressed concern about the new requirements for measuring impacts both inside and outside of their organizations.  While we recognize that reporters may feel overwhelmed, the new standards actually decrease extraneous data collection and increase understanding of material issues for an organization.  Achieving a deeper and more meaningful comprehension of material impacts may feel like an intensive process initially, but an organization will reap the benefits of this process ten-fold as it develops its future goals and strengthens its relationships with stakeholders.  Simply put, G4 eliminates immaterial work and adds focus to the sustainability management process.

BrownFlynn looks forward to presenting another GRI-Certified G4 Bridging Module on October 3rd in Cleveland, OH.  We will also be offering GRI-Certified Course: The GRI Process on September 12th &13th at AIAG in Detroit, MI and on September 23rd & 24th at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA.  Training attendees for each of these courses will receive a G4 Certificate. Please visit our website for additional information.

–Sarah Corrigan