In recent years, the sustainability disclosure landscape has become complex for companies, yet 96% of the world’s largest 250 companies (G250) report on their sustainability performance. A wide range of stakeholders – including investors, companies, policymakers, regulators, NGOs, and civil society – use corporate sustainability reports to inform a wide range of decisions. With the increase in sustainability reporting, there is an increasing global push for improving disclosures and enhancing clarity, compatibility, and transparency.

Standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards which dominate the sustainability disclosure landscape, help ensure that companies report high-quality information to their stakeholders.

Using the GRI and SASB Standards

Sustainability frameworks differ from sustainability standards, yet both complement each other as the standards make frameworks actionable. The frameworks provide principle-based guidance on how information is organized, prepared and the general topics covered, while the standards provide specific, detailed and replicable requirements for what to report for each topic, including metrics.

GRI and SASB are standards for disclosing sustainability information.

The GRI standards focus on the company’s ESG impacts on sustainable development, which concern a wide range of stakeholders, including investors. Thus, each set of standards complement each other and do not act as a substitute for each other. SASB standards focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues that are expected to have a financially material impact on the company (financial condition, operating performance, or risk profile) mainly catering to investors.

In July 2020, GRI and SASB announced a collaborative workplan, which aims to:

  • Provide clarity on the application of their reporting standards
  • Help to understand how the sustainability performance data they provide is used
  • Help consumers of sustainability data understand the similarities and differences in the information generated from these standards.
  • Help companies and investors successfully use the GRI and SASB standards to provide the depth and breadth of disclosure that many stakeholders require

A Practical Guide Using GRI and SASB Standards

In April 2021, a practical guide to sustainability reporting using the GRI and SASB standards was released. “A Practical Guide to Sustainability Reporting Using GRI and SASB Standards” shows how companies use the two sets of standards together and explore companies’ experiences using the two sets of standards together to meet their reporting needs. The Guide was based on extensive interviews with four global companies who are all long-term GRI reporters who are now also reporting according to SASB.

This joint research demonstrates how companies successfully use the GRI and SASB Standards to provide the depth and breadth of disclosure that their many stakeholders, including investors, require. The GRI and SASB Standards have unique and complementary roles within a global and comprehensive corporate reporting system. Our progress towards this system is abetted by developing a common language and practical insights, as offered by this joint paper.” Janine Guillot, CEO of SASB

How the GRI and SASB Standards work together

Businesses can use GRI and SASB Standards to meet the needs of their target audience. There is no single recommended method for using the two sets of standards together. Companies use different reporting processes, for example:

  • Publish separate GRI and SASB tables of disclosures within the same integrated report.
  • Publish a combined GRI and SASB content index

Why report against both the GRI Standards and the SASB Standards?

The Guide revealed several reasons for companies to use the GRI and SASB standards together, including:

  • Pioneering transparency: helps companies anticipate changing stakeholder expectations and anticipate data requests through transparency.
  • A holistic picture: provide comprehensive picture of the company’s performance, which brings sustainability and financial information together
  • Meeting the needs of investors: meets the needs of a wide range of stakeholders, including investors.
  • Business value: provides key insights into the long-term value of a business, its durability, and the creation of growth opportunities.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts. The GRI Standards, are the world’s most widely used standards for sustainability reporting.

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) connects businesses and investors on the financial impacts of sustainability. SASB Standards enable businesses around the world to identify, manage, and communicate financially material sustainability information to investors. SASB Standards are industry-specific and are designed to be decision-useful for investors and cost-effective for companies.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


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