New GRI Agriculture Sector Standard supports comprehensive reporting on commodity production 

Last month, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the world’s most widely used standards for sustainability reporting, released its third Sector Standard: GRI 13: Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fishing Sectors 2022.

GRI 13 is the third of 40 sector standards to be produced by GRI, prioritized based on the wide-ranging impacts of these activities across economic, environmental, and social dimensions – including those on climate change, biodiversity, and human rights.  

The GRI 13 Sector Standard is designed to guide companies in agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing sectors in identifying their most significant impacts and is intended to reflect stakeholder expectations for sustainability reporting, bringing together the increasingly broad set of sustainability topics on which these companies are being asked to provide information. 

Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) representatives participated in the development of this standard, in order to support alignment with the Accountability Framework’s principles and guidance. 

Comprehensive and standardized disclosures for upstream companies 

Many upstream companies, including agricultural commodity producers and primary processers, struggle to identify material topics and appropriate indicators for reporting on human rights, ecosystem conversion, and other topics related to sustainable production and trade. 

The GRI 13 Sector Standard describes the sustainability contexts most salient to these organizations, outlines topics that are likely to be material to companies in the sector, and lists disclosures that are relevant for them to report on.  

By using this new Standard as the basis for public sustainability reporting, upstream companies can report comprehensively on their sustainability policies, activities, and impacts for all elements of the Accountability Framework – including on ecosystem conversion and the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers – as well as on climate impacts, sustainable livelihoods, and other topics. 

GRI’s new Sector Standard will increase the completeness and comparability of sustainability information for all organizations around the world involved in crop cultivation, animal production, aquaculture, or fishing – allowing them both to demonstrate progress toward sustainability goals and to meet the expectations of their buyers, financiers, investors, and other stakeholders. 

Comprehensive and standardized reporting by these companies will support downstream companies and financial institutions in making informed decisions related to supplier management and engagement, procurement, and financing, in order to meet their own sustainability policies and commitments.   

New topic for GRI Standards: Natural ecosystem conversion 

GRI’s previous offerings had limited indicators covering deforestation and conversion. Now in this Standard, the Accountability Framework’s elements on deforestation and ecosystem conversion have formed the basis for a new topic on natural ecosystem conversion, fully aligned with the Framework’s guidance for reporting on progress toward no-deforestation and no-conversion goals. The topic prompts companies to provide information on the management of deforestation and conversion, including: 

       commitments and policies 

       supplier management 

       sectoral and landscape collaboration 

       traceability 

       monitoring 

In keeping with emerging best practice, the topic also provides guidance for reporting companies to disclose outcomes of efforts to reduce ecosystem conversion, in the form of both deforestation- and conversion-free production and sourcing and the amount of deforestation and/or ecosystem conversion in operations or supply chains. 

These outcome measures will support companies not only in reporting progress toward their no-deforestation and no-conversion goals, but also in accounting for land use change emissions as part of their greenhouse gas accounting. It aligns with similar new metrics added this year into the CDP forests questionnaire. 

Strengthened disclosures on human rights 

The Accountability Framework’s elements on human rights are addressed in detail through three topics related to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (one on indigenous rights, one on local communities, and a newly added topic on land and resource rights) and six topics related to the rights of workers, including migrant workers. 

In addition, the GRI Universal Standards (which guide reporting for all companies) have been strengthened to better align with the UN Guiding Principles, indicating that companies must report on all human rights impacts considered salient for their sector, or explain why they have not done so. 

No need to wait 

GRI 13: Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fishing Sectors 2022 will come into effect for reporting beginning January 2024, but companies are encouraged to begin reporting against these topics next year, in order to accelerate progress and demonstrate leadership in transparency and disclosure.