Crisis management, Environment & Sustainability

GRI 403 and beyond: Occupational safety in corporate sustainability reporting

How to integrate the topic of occupational health and safety (OHS) into your GRI sustainability reporting

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a crucial topic when it comes to corporate sustainability. A solid understanding of the link between the two is essential if you want to move occupational health and safety even further up your company’s agenda. 

But where in a sustainability report is it suitable to address OHS? This article outlines where you should enter information and indicators on occupational health and safety and the role of specific Sector Standards. Our infographic clearly summarizes the current state the GRI Standards (GRI 2021) following the introduction of restructured, revised, and supplemented standards as of January 1, 2023. 

GRI 1 and 2: OHS information

Fundamental information about the role and relevance of OHS in relation to corporate strategy, compliance, and engagement with internal and external stakeholders can be effectively presented in the introductory chapters or in the description of the company. GRI 2 and indicators 2-22 to 2-27 provide guidance on what aspects you can report.

Sustainability reports follow the principle of materiality. This means that they should report on topics related to the company that have a material impact on the economy, environment, and people, including on human rights. Sustainability reports often include a chapter on materiality that describes the methodology used to identify material topics, the topics themselves and general information on how the company addresses them. This provides the opportunity for an organization to demonstrate whether occupational health and safety has been identified as a material topic and its importance to the organization and its stakeholders. GRI 3 and indicators 3-2 and 3-3 provide useful guidance.

GRI 403: OHS indicators

Once an organization has identified OHS as a material topic, it must report on it using the relevant topic standard. OHS is covered in GRI 400 (Social Disclosures). The relevant indicator set for OHS is GRI 403, which consists of 10 sub-indicators (403-1 bis 403-10). For each indicator, mandatory disclosures, recommendations, and guidelines for disclosure are provided.

Each organization must determine for itself what specific details it needs to report for each material topic. When it comes to OHS, they must decide which of the 10 sub-indicators to report on. Unlike the GRI SRS 2016/2018, the GRI Standards 2021 do not specify a minimum number of specific indicators that companies must report on.

Sector Standards: Specifications and recommendations

Universal Standards (GRI 1-3) and Topic Standards (GRI 200, 300 and 400) are supplemented by Sector Standards (GRI 11, 12, 13 et seq.). Sector Standards have not yet been published for all sectors. However, if a Sector Standard relevant to the reporting organization has been published, the application of this Standard is mandatory. When it comes to OHS, this means that the Sector Standard provides more specific details about likely material topics for companies operating in that sector (and explores issues covered in indicators 3-2 and 3-3 in more detail) as well as sector-specific recommendations for reporting in line with the GRI 403 indicator set.

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Prof. Jana Brauweiler: As Professor of Integrated Management Systems at the Zittau/Görlitz University of Applied Sciences (HSZG) in Germany, she is primarily responsible for HSZG students on the master’s program in Integrated Management Systems. She has published several practical guides on occupational health and safety management systems, environmental management systems, and auditing of management systems. She also offers coaching and consulting to organizations to support the implementation of such systems in their day-to-day business activities. Through her work, which focuses in particular on SMEs in the industrial sector, she aims to support the effective implementation and integration of environmental, occupational safety, energy, and quality management systems.