GRI Standards 2020 update: Waste

In this article:

  • Introduction
  • Waste-related impacts
  • Circularity Measures
  • Reporting on quantitative data using revised Waste Standards
  • Circularity tools


The Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), GRI’s independent standard-setting body, released a revised Waste standard in May 2020. It is effective for reports published on or after 1 Jan 2022, although earlier adoption is encouraged.

The revision of GRI Standards is done on an ongoing basis to reflect the most recent trends and developments of environmental and social issues in the Standards. In 2018, GSSB revised the standards for Water and Effluents and Occupational Health and Safety. In 2019, a new standard for Tax transparency was released.

In particular, the revised waste standard replaces the older version which was based on an older paradigm in which waste was assumed to have no economic value. The revised standard also encourages disclosure relating to circularity. Organisation are now required to report, among others:

  • significant actual and potential waste-related impacts (GRI 306-1),
  • actions, including circularity measures, taken to prevent waste generation in the organisation’s own activities and upstream and downstream in its value chain, and to manage significant impacts from waste generated (GRI 306-2)

In this article, we discuss two key terms used in the standard in more detail: “waste-related impacts” and “circularity measures”. For more experienced GRI users, we have also summed up the changes in quantitative information required in the revised Standard.


Waste-related Impacts

Waste-related ‘impact’ refers to the effect of the waste generated by an organisation on the economy, the environment, and/or society.

Typically, organisations consider their waste generated in their operations and sometimes in their supply chain. In life cycle thinking, organisations also take into account the end-of-life of their products and services, and as a result their (waste) responsibility and impact do not end at the point of sale, but the point in time when the customer no longer finds value in the product. They would think about the amount of waste they pass on to their customers.

Waste-related impacts on people and the environment would depend on how the waste is transported, where it ends up and how it is treated (or not). GRI for instance gave the example of threat of marine pollution resulting from leakage of discarded plastic packaging into waterbodies. In Singapore, for example, many organisations do not know what happens to their waste or recyclables after they are being collected by third-party waste collectors, and therefore have little visibility on their waste impact at the disposal stage. GRI now requires organisations that engage a third party to manage its waste to describe “the processes used to determine whether the third party manages the waste in line with contractual or legislative obligations”.

To start understanding your waste-related impacts, you could start collecting data on the amount of materials used and waste generated in your value chain, as well as the properties of these inputs and outputs that limit or enable their recovery (e.g. reuse, recycle) or durability.


Circularity measures

To understand the concept of circularity, first consider a typical production process: raw materials are taken from the environment, produced into goods and services, used by consumers, before it is thrown away as waste. In this linear model, the value of the materials becomes lost at the end of its use. In a circular model, on the other hand, the value of the materials gets retained as long as possible, through measures such as reusing, remaking or recycling. These circularity measures are better for the environment because by keeping materials in use as long as possible, they prevent waste accumulation and resource depletion.


Source: Paia Consulting, adapted from Catherine Weetman (2016)


Tracking material flow(s) forces an organisation to examine its value chain – activities that convert input into output by adding value. Typically this gives better clarity on the life cycle of your products and services, including your inputs and suppliers upstream, and your outputs and customers downstream. Such life cycle thinking not only helps organisations identify causes of waste generation but is also an opportunity to improve process efficiencies and rethink business models.


Reporting on quantitative data using revised Waste Standards

For experienced GRI users, here are the key changes:


1. Effluents are no longer reported under “waste”
For organisations reporting on water discharge or effluents (2016 GRI 306-1 or 306-5), to report them under the 2018 GRI 303: Water instead of the 2016 GRI 306: Waste and Effluents.

For organisations reporting on spills, to continue reporting under the 2016 standard, but to look out for the upcoming Spills and Leaks standard that will be developed in the next few years. The indicator (2016 GRI 306-3) will be withdrawn on 1 Jan 2022.


2. Waste data is to be broken down into generation (306-3), diverted from disposal (306-4) and directed to disposal (306-5), reflecting the waste management hierarchy
GRI introduces the waste management hierarchy in this standard. Waste prevention, or waste reduction, is the most preferable option in the hierarchy, as it prevents the resulting impacts on the environment and human health. It is then followed by followed by recovery operations that divert waste from being sent to landfill or incineration, such as preparation for reuse, recycling. Disposal is the least preferable option in the waste management hierarchy as it is associated with the most negative impacts on the environment.


Source: EPA

Under each waste management option, the revised standard has a few broad categories for disposal methods:

  • Diverted from disposal, by recovery operations such as:
    • Preparation for reuse
    • Recycling (includes downcycling, upcycling, composting, or anaerobic digestion)
  • Directed to disposal, by operations such as:
    • Incineration (with energy recovery)
    • Incineration (without energy recovery)
    • Landfilling

To note, the definition of recovery is slightly different from that of the previous standard.

There is also requirement for additional disclosure of whether the waste is diverted on-site of off-site, to show the extent to which the organisation knows how its waste is managed.


3. Transportation of hazardous waste is no longer a standalone metric

In the revised Standards, transportation is to be disclosed under “waste management by third parties” (GRI306-2).


Circularity tools

For companies interested in waste reduction and circularity, here are some tools that may be helpful:


Circulytics by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

This company-level measuring tool reveals the extent to which a company has achieved circularity across its entire operations. It does this by using the widest set of indicators currently available: enablers and outcomes.


Circular Transition Indicators (CTI) by World Business Council for Sustainable Development

A framework to measure circularity, the Circular Transition Indicators (CTI) is a simple, objective and quantitative framework that can be applied to businesses of all industries, sizes, value chain positions and geographies.


Paia Consulting can support you in your waste reporting and management strategy.


We have extensive experience working with NEA and Singapore companies on their sustainability, waste and recycling. Our waste services include data measurement and reporting, conducting waste audits, and creating waste reduction plans. If you are interested in further discussion of this topic, contact us at


The public and private sector, to increase focus on waste reduction

On World Environment Day this year, both the public and private sectors in Singapore upped up their efforts for environmental protection with a series of plans and initiatives. These include:

  • the unveiling of the Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017-2020 by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean,
  • the introduction of mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans and the Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging by National Environment Agency,
  • the launch of ReCYCLE, a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme by Singapore Post and Singtel
  • the official opening of the Singapore Sustainability Academy by CDL and Sustainability Energy Association ofSingapore.

Under the Public Sector Sustainability Plan, environmental targets are set with regards to the use of electricity, water, building, waste and solar energy for FY2020 and achieve them through better resource management. Transparency and Disclosure is one of the main components guiding the Plan [1]; we can expect progress against targets to be communicated. The Plan reinforces Singapore’s commitment to the Paris Agreement of reducing emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels [2].

The Public Sector Sustainability Plan is published by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), under the Sustainable Singapore campaign.

The National Environment Agency, an agency under MEWR, also introduced initiatives to reduce packaging waste. The launch of the Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging (LPRP) will help inform consumers of products that has reduced packaging and hence generate less waste. Mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans will also be introduced by 2021, for businesses that uses packaging on consumer goods [3].

The announcement of mandatory reporting of packaging data and Waste Reduction Plans by 2021 was made by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, during the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) [1]. Reduction of packaging waste makes business sense for winners of the 10th SPA awards.  Greenpac for example avoids 4.13 tonnes of packaging material and reaps about $17,200 a year in material cost savings after redesigning a microscope packaging to use lighter polypropylene (PP) corrugated sheets instead of wood [4]. Sunfresh Singapore has estimated annual cost savings of $1,320 with a reduction of 0.28 tonne of plastic packaging waste by eliminating plastic liners in their deliveries of aluminium cups [4].

Given that one-third of about 1.66 million tonnes of waste disposed in 2016 by Singapore was packaging waste [1], these initiatives are appropriate and timely.

Waste reduction was the theme of some initiatives by the private sector as well.

Singapore Post and Singtel for instance launched ReCYCLE, a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme. Consumers can now drop unwanted electronic devices into the ReCYCLE bins at selected Singtel outlets and Post Offices at no charge. Valuable metals and components in the devices would be recovered [5].

At the official opening of the Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA), winners of the 6th CDL Singapore Sculpture Awards presented artwork that utilised the SSA’s residual building materials, in line with this year’s theme of ‘Towards Zero-Waste!’ [6].

The SSA is a training and networking facility on sustainability jointly created by City Developments Limited (CDL) and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), a non-profit organisation. Among other sustainability-related events, the SSA will be a platform for CDL’s Women4Green initiative, the first sustainability network for women in Singapore. The SSA will also partner Eco-Business to set up a Sustainability Studio for the production of sustainability-related films [6].

The ReCYCLE programme and the Singapore Sustainability Academy are great examples of how partnerships between sectors can work together to achieve better environmental outcome. Indeed, that collective effort by all sectors in the economy are required to make progress, and it is heartening to see initiatives by both the public and public sector this World Environment Day.

World Environment Day started in 1974 by the United Nations, and is celebrated on 5 June by over 100 countries every year [7].






[4] Singapore Packaging Agreement, ‘3R Packaging Awards 2016’