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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

A Crash Course in GRI Reporting for Environmental Management

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

GRI reportingThe Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization that provides businesses with a framework for comprehensive corporate sustainability reporting. This type of sustainability reporting, commonly known as GRI reporting, is widely accepted around the world as a successful attempt at standardizing CSR reporting.

The GRI reporting protocols cover almost every aspect of your business, from employee safety, human rights, and – of course – environmental management

GRI reporting is done in 5 simple steps that can get as in-depth as your business needs:

  1. Prepare
  2. Connect – with key stakeholders in order to determine which impacts to monitor and define your scope
  3. Define – meet with internal executives to create your action plan
  4. Monitor – quantify your impacts and carefully track your processes
  5. Report – write your report and communicate it with the public

You should pay particularly close attention to step 4 - monitoring - because it is the most difficult aspect of GRI reporting. It’s the one that transforms the theory of sustainability into a concrete reality.

It is especially important for your environmental management sustainability reporting, as it is essentially impossible to determine the weight of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions generated on-site without carefully tracking your product usage, chemical inventory, and control technologies.

The same can be said about your water consumption and discharges, and hazardous waste generation. Both are part of GRI reporting that require a deeper knowledge of your processes.

Essential Environmental Metrics

The GRI protocols suggest 30 environmental performance indicators that should be used as part of your environmental sustainability report. As you go through the first 3 steps of the GRI process, you will decide which of these 30 are applicable to your business.

While your particular industry may not be able to report for all of these metrics, you should strive to complete as many as possible. Not only will this give you a clearer picture of your sustainability efforts, it will help you make more informed and cost-effective decisions about how your business operates.

The GRI protocols categorize the 30 environmental performance indicators into 9 distinct aspects.

Here are some of the most important, and most complex metrics:

Materials

  • Includes all of your raw materials, including natural resources, manufactured chemicals, materials needed for manufacturing (like lubricants), and packaging materials.
  • How much of your materials is a recycled product?

Energy         

  • Direct and indirect energy consumption, described by source.
  • Amount of renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal) used.
  • Efforts made to reduce energy requirements by finding more energy efficient processes.

Water                        

  • Total amount of water withdrawn from water sources, and descriptions of how your processes have significantly affected those water sources.
  • Percentage and total volume of water that is recycled or reused.

Biodiversity

  • Descriptions of how your activities have had an impact on the biodiversity of adjacent/nearby protected areas & areas considered to have high biodiversity.
  • Strategies for managing your impacts on biodiversity.

Emissions, Effluents, Waste

  • Total weight of direct and indirect emission of GHGs.
  • Total weight of ozone-depleting emissions.
  • Total weight of NOx, SOx, and other air emissions by type.
  • Total water discharge by quality and destination.
  • Total weight of waste generated by type and disposal method.
  • Total weight of hazardous waste either treated, transported, or imported and percentage of waste shipped internationally.
  • Total volume and number of spills on and off-site.

Products and Services

  • Percentage of products sold and their packaging materials that are reclaimed/recycled.

Compliance

Transport

  • Description of impact of transporting your materials and finished products.

Overall

  • Total environmental protection expenses and investments.

As made clear by these performance indicators, GRI reporting is all about having clear and concise data. It takes a whole team of environmental specialists working with the right tools just to collect and calculate this type of data.

Much like ISO 14001, GRI reporting wants it participants to have a comprehensive environmental management system that is constantly at work tracking emissions data and crunching numbers.

But that’s also the reason why GRI reporting is held in such high regard and has produced some real results.

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ERA Environmental Alex

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog

Topics: Sustainability, Environmental Compliance & Data Management