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The newest biodiversity reporting standard: what you should know

Feb 1, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), one of the leading sustainability reporting standard setters, has published a revised version of its biodiversity standard : “GRI 101.” It will help companies reporting through GRI understand and disclose their biodiversity impacts.

With the new standard, GRI has responded to the growing corporate interest in nature conservation, which has rapidly advanced following the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in 2022.

GRI made “quite significant changes and revisions” to its prior biodiversity standard GRI 304, said Elodie Chêne, senior standards manager at the organization. The new standard presents international best practices for halting and reversing biodiversity loss. For example, it asks companies to report on the direct drivers of biodiversity loss, such as air and water pollution and the spread of invasive species.

A more stringent approach

The new requirements will impact companies across a range of sectors, including food and agriculture, mining and oil and other industries with large land and water footprints.

GRI’s standards define eight categories that companies with significant biodiversity footprints must report on, including biodiversity policies, commitments and impact management approaches. Other nature frameworks let companies select the issues they want to disclose.

For example, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) developed a set of 14 disclosure categories, such as the total area of land disturbed, that companies are recommended but not required to report on. GRI’s more stringent approach could bring increased transparency and accountability to the biodiversity space — if companies decide to report in accordance with it.

Controversial issues: supply chains and offsets

GRI 101 incorporates new best practices for measuring and managing biodiversity loss and requires companies to report directly on their primary drivers. It also asks for location-specific impacts and how they affect communities.

According to Chêne, three topics stood out as the most controversial issues in the public consultation process during which businesses, civil society and technical experts submitted 122 comments on the standard’s draft:

  • Supply chain disclosures: The most significant biodiversity impacts tend to occur in companies’ supply chains, but getting data from suppliers beyond the first tier is challenging, and site-specific information can be commercially sensitive. GRI 101 allows companies to report supply chain impacts at a country level while encouraging the disclosure of more granular location data.
  • Biodiversity offsets: GRI asks companies to report on their offsetting practices to foster a better understanding of how different industries are currently using them and what best practices may be. Companies need to provide information on their offsets’ goals, geographic location, principles and third-party certifications or verifications.
  • Prioritizing key impacts: Reporting on all biodiversity impacts is nearly impossible. GRI 101 focuses on the most significant ones and suggests how to prioritize. But this doesn’t mean companies can choose not to report on some material topics altogether, as is the case with other frameworks.

GRI in the broader nature framework

For the past few years, standard setters and governments have worked to replicate the reporting infrastructure developed for the climate crisis to the biodiversity crisis. This work aims to progress rapidly to meet the GBF’s ambitious 2030 goals, such as restoring 30 percent of the world’s degraded land. The speed at which new frameworks, policies and tools are developing has overwhelmed companies.

GRI did not try to compete with or duplicate the efforts of other prominent frameworks, such as TNFD or the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN). Instead, GRI collaborated closely with their teams and tapped into some of the same technical experts to ensure that the frameworks were aligned and reinforced their distinct roles and goals: “If you need to set targets, go for SBTN. If you need to measure your impact, go to TNFD. And if you want to disclose, go to GRI,” Chêne said.

To provide further clarity, the UN Environment Programme has published an analysis that compares the scope, materiality definition and supply chain coverage of the most prominent nature-related assessment and disclosure frameworks and standards.

GRI 101 will formally go into effect on January 1, 2026. The transition period will allow companies to get up to speed with the new standard, but they can adopt it earlier if ready.

The post "The newest biodiversity reporting standard: what you should know" appeared first on Green Biz

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