Anna Krotova of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) explains that in spite of ever growing volumes of waste being generated worldwide, new corporate reporting disclosures are needed to address the problem at its core.
This is why GRI started the revision of its reporting Standard on waste last year, which is used annually by nearly 4000 organisations, private and public, large and small, worldwide. The Standard has been updated by a multi-stakeholder expert group and is now available for public comment until 15 July. It aims to help organisations understand what causes waste-related impacts, giving them the basis for improving their waste management practices and reporting.
The Standard is about supporting companies to direct their sustainability efforts towards measuring and managing their impacts. It will help businesses to introduce significant improvements rather than incremental fixes. By this, I mean collecting and reporting information that captures the significant waste-related impacts and allows companies to identify levers to manage them.
We recognise the complexity of the problem and that is why the draft Standard seeks to address the cause and not only treat the consequence. This is about seeing a change in how businesses perceive waste – not as an inevitable result of a process, or the end of product’s life, but a consequence of decisions and practices made long before it is generated. Understanding this connection can bring fundamental change in how companies operate.
Businesses also need to start recognsing and take responsibility for ‘indirect waste’ – that which is generated by consumers using their products, or by suppliers that provide materials to the company. It is the choice of the company to put a product on the market, therefore both the ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ consequences need to be recognsed and managed.
Ultimately, we’re hoping the Standard will lead to organisations critically reassessing how they design products. This is about encouraging circularity practices so less waste is generated in the first place – and what waste is produced is managed better.
All GRI Standards are developed in a way that takes on board stakeholders’ views, to ensure they are globally relevant. And that is why we are seeking wide-ranging input as we develop the Waste Standard. This includes people within companies who carry out or coordinate sustainability reporting, or oversee waste management practices – as well as civil society organisations and data users, such as investors.
The public comment period is open until 15 July, so please put forward your views. All feedback will be analysed and shared with the expert group and GRI’s Global Sustainability Standards Board for consideration as they finalise the Standard. We then expect the Waste Standard to be released early next year.