More ambition in scope and reach needed to achieve greater impact

GRI – the provider of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards –  is asking for companies to conduct due diligence on human rights and environmental issues to be more strongly embedded in the legal framework. This follows the publication of the European Commission’s proposal for the Sustainable Corporate Governance Directive.

Replying to increasing demand for more effective tools to hold firms accountable for their business practices, last October, a significant update to the GRI Universal Standards was launched, containing strengthened due diligence reporting.

We are pleased that companies subject to the EU’s Sustainable Corporate Governance Directive will have to integrate human rights, the environment and climate into their decisions, to ensure their business model and strategy are compatible with the transition to a sustainable economy. This includes that companies must identify the extent to which climate change is a risk to their operations. However, we are concerned by the removal of corporate governance requirements and watered down obligations on potential adverse environmental impacts. Furthermore, the lack of clarity on supplier contracts and third party verification will not achieve the required transparency on the supply chain. Moreover, a loophole introduced means companies could be safeguarded from civil liability claims, in situations where suppliers who have not fulfilled their obligations are able to provide verifications based only on generic contractual clauses.”

Peter Paul van de Wijs, Chief External Affair Officer at GRI

The limited scope of the Directive – to apply to around 1% of European companies (14,000 businesses) and 3,000 firms outside of Europe – is a missed opportunity. Findings from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre indicate they have approached 600 European companies since 2020 about alleged human rights abuses, of which the vast majority occur outside the EU. There are already over 10,000 companies voluntarily using the GRI Standards for reporting and managing their impacts. We are at a critical time in protecting human rights and the environment, across the whole supply and value chains. For this Directive to be truly effective, it must be more ambitious in reach and scope.”

Tabitha Bailey, GRI Policy Coordinator

GRI submitted a response to the European Commission’s consultation on sustainable corporate governance In 2021.

The Universal Standards 2021 apply to all reporting organizations that use the GRI Standards. The revision brought update disclosures on policy commitments for responsible business behaviour, including respect for human rights. The Universal Standards are the leading and only reporting standards to fully reflect due diligence expectations for sustainability impacts, written in intergovernmental instruments by the UN and OECD.

Source: GRI