Blueprint for Accountability on Labor Impacts

Public comment on revised GRI Standards for employment practices and working conditions
Jun 11, 2024 10:10 AM ET
GRI labor standards public consultation

June 11, 2024 /3BL/ - How are organizations responding to their responsibilities to ensure decent working conditions and fully disclose their impacts on workers? This question is at the heart of a major review of all GRI labor-related Standards – with a consultation launched for the first phase of disclosures.

Seeking greater transparency on employment practices and working conditions, a suite of proposed changes address policies on employment relationships, pay and working hours, and how businesses handle significant changes for workers. A global public comment period, underway until 4 October 2024, seeks feedback on redrafted versions of three Standards:

  • GRI 402: Labor/Management Relations
  • GRI 401: Employment
  • GRI 202: Market Presence

The process has been guided by an expert group comprising tripartite representation of workers (International Trade Union Confederation, Global Unions Federations), employers (International Organization of Employers) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Crucially, it will ensure GRI Labor Standards are fully aligned with key intergovernmental instruments for business and human rights, including those set by the ILO, the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Two further consultation stages in the labor project will happen over the coming 12 months: for working life and career development, followed by workers’ rights and protections. In total, updates will be made to 11 GRI Standards, guided by the human rights-based approach and due diligence.

Carol Adams, Chair of GRI’s Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), said:

“Revising labor-related disclosures is a high priority for the GSSB, given widespread recognition of the need for organizations to do more to protect human and labor rights and ensure decent conditions and treatment of workers. Better information and disclosure are key to achieving the SDGs and improving decision-making. I encourage all stakeholders to review the changes and provide feedback.

I warmly thank the members of the Technical Committee and Advisory Group for their valuable input to draft this first set of GRI Labor Standards. The representation of all GRI stakeholder constituencies and input provided by the ILO, IOE and international trade unions increases the legitimacy and global relevance of the proposed new Standards.”

Emily Sims, Senior Specialist, International Labour Organization (ILO), said:

ILO welcomes GRI’s commitment to align its reporting standards with the principles contained in international labor standards. This alignment contributes to business transparency concerning labor-related impacts, actions and performance; and helps companies to strengthen their contribution to SDG 8 on decent work and inclusive economic growth. 

We also commend GRI for including IOE and ITUC in the periodic updating of the standards, to ensure that the updates reflect the interests of the key actors in the world of work. ILO looks forward to the finalization of GRI’s Labor Standards, and we will continue to engage in their development.”

Paul Mackay, International Organisation of Employers (IOE) Governing Body Deputy Member, added:

“The IOE has cooperated with GRI for many years to help companies assess and report their social and environmental impacts, in line with the UN and OECD guidelines on responsible business conduct and human rights. As such, I was delighted to serve as IOE representative on the Technical Committee that reviewed all GRI labor-related disclosures. 

Crucially, these draft standards have been developed in cooperation with the ILO and the workers trade unions and have the potential to positively contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I encourage businesses, large and small, to engage in the public comment period to ensure that the perspectives of employers are fully reflected in the final standards.”

Peter Colley, National Research Director, Mining and Energy Union (Australia) and a labor constituency representative on the GSSB, added: 

“Employment is a key social and economic impact of most organizations. For some, it is their biggest impact. Their workforce is a source of competitive advantage, but also a major risk for adverse impacts regarding workplace human rights and broader sustainability. The substantial revision underway to the GRI Labor Standards will be a major tool for organizations to manage risk and improve their performance in this critical area.”

The initial phase of the Labor Standards review covers how an organization manages its relationship with workers, and proposes changes within GRI 202: Market Presence 2016,GRI 401: Employment 2016, and GRI 402: Labor/Management Relations 2016, as well as a new ‘control of work’ Standard Interpretation (aligned with GRI 2: General Disclosures).

The draft new or revised disclosures relate to:

  • Employment: non-standard forms of employment, apprentices and internships, fair recruitment, performance management, personal data protection and privacy, employment termination, and hiring and turnover metrics.
  • Remuneration and working time: includes policies and metrics of cost-of-living estimates, basic gender pay gap, and social protection coverage.
  • Significant changes for workers: comprising consultation and notice periods to workers’ representatives, redeployment and up-skilling and re-skilling and termination of employment.

The need for increased corporate accountability for labor-related impacts is reinforced by the ILO 2024 trends report, which revealed around 435 million people globally are deprived of earning an income through employment – while many millions more face declining real wages, a lack of employment security, or deteriorating working conditions.

The public comment period is an opportunity to provide feedback on the clarity, completeness, feasibility and relevance of content in the exposure drafts. Stakeholders are encouraged to submit their feedback by completing this online form.

The Labor Technical Committee was appointed by the GSSB in 2022 to lead the review, with an Advisory Group of independent experts then brought together to support the content development process.

The GRI Standards – the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards – are set by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), the independent and multi-stakeholder entity that works exclusively in the public interest.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization providing sustainability reporting standards that help businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their most significant impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts.