New standard, new format?

The new GRI Standards are a perfect chance for companies to re-think the structure and format of the GRI Content Index.

As a navigation tool the GRI Content Index is a fixed component in most of today’s Sustainability and Integrated Reports. With the new GRI Standards the role of the Content Index is mostly unchanged. As GRI said “it is still required to include a Context Index, but organizations can use the presentation format they wish”. In other words: GRI intends to offer companies more flexibility in formatting the Content Index.

Basic requirements

GRI only defined some basic requirements for the GRI Content Index: The Index should specify “each of the GRI Standards used and list all disclosures included in the report” (GRI 102, p. 38). Also, companies need to include the following information for each disclosure:

  • “i. the number of the disclosure (for disclosures covered by the GRI Standards);
  • ii. the page number(s) or URL(s) where the information can be found, either within the report or in other published materials;
  • iii. if applicable, and where permitted, the reason(s) for omission when a required disclosure cannot be made” (GRI 102, p. 38).

Moreover, the reporting organisation should label the index as “GRI Content Index”, provide it in one location (e.g. the online report), include title and publication year of each GRI Standard used and also “include any additional material topics reported on which are not covered by the GRI Standards, including page number(s) or URL(s) where the information can be found” (GRI 102, p. 38).

New standard, new format?

In our view the new GRI Standards are a perfect chance for companies to re-think the structure and format of the Content Index – especially in digital reports. GRI has given a possible example for preparing the Index as a table (see GRI 102, p.40). Up to now, tables are the most common format for presenting the GRI Content Index, but they come along with some disadvantages: Tables were invented for presenting figures, not text. In the case of content indices large amounts of text (indicators, comments on omission etc.) are often packed into small columns and set in a small font size. Also, they normally fill a lot of pages and do not offer a clear overview of the index structure. Another disadvantage in the digital age: GRI tables are in most cases not optimised for the use on mobile devices.

For the HHLA annual report we created a GRI index which is designed for the reception on screen. By implementing an accordion solution, the provided information makes use of the full content width while remaining perfectly readable and fully responsive. HHLA is also taking advantage of our GRI backlinking feature. By means of GRI backlinking corresponding indicators from the GRI table are provided automatically on every page of the report (see right panel). On mouse-over, additional information to the GRI indicators is shown. This allows for a more extensive integration of the GRI index within the report.

GRI Standard GRI Index


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