Step to accountability? Revised draft of standards for firms to self-report environmental impact approved

Decided standards will allow organisations to publicly disclose their major impacts on biodiversity and its management
The revised standard is open for consultation until February 28, 2023. Photo: iStock.
The revised standard is open for consultation until February 28, 2023. Photo: iStock.

As the world meets in Montreal to address global biodiversity concerns, the draft of standards for firms to self-report their impact on the environment is now open for consultation. The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), an independent global organisation, has approved the exposure draft of the revised Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Biodiversity Standard.

The GRI is a global entity that helps businesses take responsibility for their impacts on biodiversity. GRI Standards are designed to be used by organisations to report on their impacts on the economy, the environment and society.

Public comments and consultations on the same started December 5, 2022. Consultation aims to test the drafted standards’ clarity, feasibility and relevance. The revised standard is open for consultation until February 28, 2023.

The exercise will review the GRI 304, a biodiversity-related topic. It defines reporting requirements on the topic of biodiversity by an organisation.

The review is being done under the Biodiversity 2016 Project: It represents internationally agreed best practices and aligns with recent developments as well as relevant authoritative intergovernmental instruments in biodiversity.

The decided standards will allow organisations to publicly disclose their major impacts on biodiversity and its management. The disclosure also aims to improve transparency and increase organisational accountability.

The exposure draft will be a response from the companies to its multiple stakeholders who demand to assess more, disclose and curb their biodiversity impacts.

The revised proposal of GRI 304 suggested to:

  • Reflect reporting throughout the supply chain, given many biodiversity impacts are found beyond the scope of a company’s own operations.
  • Help organisations prioritise attention on their most significant impacts, recognising the challenge of scale in addressing biodiversity impacts.
  • Add new disclosures to connect with the drivers of biodiversity loss, including climate change, pollution and overexploitation of resources.
  • Introduce requirements for biodiversity-related human rights impacts, such as those on indigenous peoples, local communities and workers.
  • Emphasise location-specific data to ensure businesses are transparent about the sites where their biodiversity impacts take place.

“It is abundantly clear that biodiversity is under siege, with human activity the leading cause,” said Judy Kuszewski, chair of the GSSB, responsible for setting the GRI Standards.

The effects of biodiversity loss are directly undermining the sustainable development agenda and, if it continues unabated, will have disastrous consequences — on the environment, the economy and people, Kuszewski added.

She urged all stakeholders and interested parties to get involved in the process which will become a focal point for accountability on biodiversity impacts.

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