The Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) past, present and future: critical reflections and a research agenda on sustainability reporting (standard-setting)

Matteo Molinari, Charl de Villiers, Matteo La Torre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to reflect on the future of sustainability reporting standards by examining the current practical initiatives and the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) position in the arena of non-financial and sustainability reporting and identifies avenues for future research.

A critical reflection and analysis of research on the GRI’s achievements and the influence of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation’s initiative to develop global sustainability reporting standards.

The GRI has a dominant position in sustainability reporting standard-setting related to the provision of information about the influence of reporting organisations on society and the natural environment. The IFRS Foundation’s initiative to enter the sustainability reporting standard-setting arena, although from the perspective of providing information to investors regarding the influence of society and the environment on the reporting organisation, is an attempt to solidify its own position as the reporting standard setter of choice, not only for financial reporting but for all reporting standards. However, despite its aim to differentiate its role from the GRI by leveraging the financial-oriented ideological side of double materiality, we argue that the IFRS is unlikely to harm the GRI’s global position in producing multi-stakeholder standards for sustainability reporting and accountability. This differentiated position is facilitated by the different sources of legitimacy the GRI and IFRS rely on.

Research limitations/implications
The paper identifies future research opportunities.

Due to the recent initiatives for creating new sustainability reporting standard-setters, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper offers one of the first critical reflections on the past and the likely future of the GRI and its sustainability reporting standards. The paper also identifies several new avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728
Number of pages747
Journal Pacific Accounting Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022

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