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


Transition to GRI Standards

The GRI G4 Reporting Guidelines are on their way to becoming a ‘Standards’ for reports published from January 2018 onwards. Our Senior Consultant Saskia Jung attended the 5th Global GRI Conference in May this year and was able to provide early feedback on drafts of the standards, which will be finalised in October 2016.

The G4 guidelines are in transition mode to becoming ‘Standards’, and although this can sound daunting, it really is not. The main content and concepts have been carried over. One of the biggest changes is that the Standards will be modular and evolving, i.e. new topics or clarifications will be added to the existing ones more easily, without introducing a complete new version (that is why these are ‘Standards’ and not ‘G5’). The guidance has overall been strengthened, many changes are structural with some content from G4 being relocated or merged, to make it easier to find and navigate. The merging has resulted in the total number of topics being brought down from 46 to 33.

There are currently 33 topic-specific Standards drafts, organized in three series: a) Economic topics (400 series) – this includes the G4 Aspects from the Economic Category, plus Anti-corruption and Anti-competitive behaviour b) Environmental topics (500 Series) – this includes most G4 Aspects from the Environmental Category c) Social topics (600 Series) – this includes most G4 Aspects from the Social Category. The sub-categories under Environment, Health and Social have been removed.

There are changes in terminology, format and presentation, ultimately improving clarity to make these easier to understand and apply. For terminology for example, each standard will now be called an SRS (Sustainability Reporting Standard), previous ‘Aspects’ are now called ‘Topics’, ‘Shall’ means mandatory instructions i.e. the company is required to disclose to be in accordance, ‘Should’ means it is advised to disclose but it is not a requirement, and ‘Guidance’ means additional, helpful information.

What are the main changes and how will they affect you as a reporting company? If you are already a G4 reporter, the changes are limited.

  1. Companies have to apply all Reporting Principles (previously covered in G4-18) and comply with all applicable reporting requirements;
  2. The main elements of materiality remain the same as the centre piece of a company’s sustainability report, as they were in G4;
  3. Emphasis on the management approach (previously called DMA) has been taken further, for each material topic, the purpose of the management approach has to be reported, and a description of each of the components used to manage the topic (e.g., policies, specific actions);
  4. Boundary: This topic has been further clarified, so that topic ‘Boundary’ relates to a description of which entities cause the impact related to a material topic, wherever the impact occurs, and not just whether the impacts occur inside or outside of the organisation. Simply put, companies are required to disclose material impacts along their entire value chain.
  5. Impacts: this term has been clarified, and in the context of the GRI Standards, unless otherwise stated, ‘impact’ refers to an organization’s impact on the economy, the environment, and/or society – in other words, the organization’s contribution (positive or negative) to sustainable development.
  6. GHG Emissions: The details on how to report Energy Indirect (Scope 2) GHG Emissions have been specified.
  7. Worker / Employee: clarification for this term has been provided. Any indicators referring to workers should not only include employees, but also interns, apprentices, self-employed persons, and in general persons working for the organizations.

Some items have been moved around in where they are placed. A few Aspects have been merged (e.g. SRS 614: Supplier social assessment combines the three assessments for labour, human rights and society). Some disclosures have been relocated or combined (e.g. G4-57 and G4-58 on ethics and integrity have been combined). Some Aspects have been discontinued, with their content incorporated elsewhere (e.g. Transport).

Sector Disclosures are still very much there to supplement the GRI Standards, but in the new Standards they are referenced as guidance, not as a requirement. And the GRI Content Index is more outcome based and is no longer required in a particular format such as a table. It can also be put online, apart from the printed report.

We have managed to outline the major changes for you to give you a flavour of what is to come. Let us know if you want to know more. And stay tuned – we will update you when the Standards are confirmed, and any important news till then.

GRI introduces a new report review service!

GRI introduces a new report review service! Contact GRI GOLD Community by 10 May 2016 to analyse your published sustainability report & suggest improvements!

Congratulations to our clients CDL, ComfortDelGro, Fraser Centrepoint, FCT, FCOT, FHT, IndoAgri, Keppel TT, MPA, Sembcorp Industries, Sembcorp Marine, ST Engineering on the recent release of their Sustainability Reports

We are pleased to see not only a growth in the number of companies producing GRI Sustainability Reports in Singapore, but also a significant increase in the quality of disclosure. We are proud to have worked with the below companies on their recent reporting projects many of whom have demonstrated leading edge practices in their disclosures.

City Developments Limited (CDL)

ComfortDelGro Corporation Ltd

Frasers Centrepoint Trust

Frasers Commercial Trust

Frasers Centrepoint Ltd

Frasers Hospitality Trust

Indofood Agri Resources Ltd

Keppel Telecommunications and Transportation Ltd (Keppel T&T)

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)

Sembcorp Industries Ltd

Sembcorp Marine Ltd

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd

50% of STI companies produce GRI-level sustainability reports

As of 12 May 2015, 50% of top 30 companies in Singapore by market capitalisation, which forms the Straits Times Index, produce sustainability reports in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). GRI is the most established sustainability reporting guideline internationally, and is cited as a recommended guideline in the Guide to Sustainability Reporting issued by Singapore Exchange (SGX).

There has been a steady rise in the number of organisations that produce GRI-level sustainability reports in Singapore, from only 3 in 2008 to 35 by 2014. New GRI reporters in 2014 include ST Engineering, Thai Beverage PLC and CapitaCommercial Trust. Numbers are expected to rise rapidly as SGX takes steps to implement a comply-or-explain sustainability reporting regime.


SGX is targeting implementation of comply-or-explain sustainability reporting for financial year 2017. SGX will be engaging listed companies, institutional investors, sustainability professionals and the public on legislating a comply-or-explain sustainability reporting regime in 2015 (see details in SGX’s announcement).

Paia Consulting is a specialist sustainability consultancy based in Singapore.

Strategy and Reporting Services

Our clients CDL, MPA, Sembcorp, SCM and ST Eng publish GRI reports

Congratulations to our clients City Developments Limited (CDL), Maritime & Port Authority (MPA), Sembcorp Industries, Sembcorp Marine and ST Engineering on the recent release of their GRI G4 reports.

MPA’s inaugural report is both G4 Comprehensive and incorporates the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) Integrated reporting framework. In the latest report, Sembcorp continues its clear and structured reporting, and added a feature articulating the value creation process.

GRI Reports in Singapore and Malaysia

Sustainability reporting

Sustainability reporting, or corporate responsibility reporting, enables organisations to report on their environmental, social and governance information beyond the scope of traditional financial reporting. Parts of it will be familiar to organisations in Singapore and Malaysia already, such as reporting safety statistics, human resource practices and environmental management systems. Community investments are also included, but contrary to what some may think, form a small part of what sustainability or sustainability reporting is about.

Far from being a ‘feel-good’ portion of the report, these extra-financial (or sometimes referred to as non-financial) information are increasingly used by investors to assess externalities which will be reflected in stock performance in the long term. For example, a company which has strong environmental management practices is less likely to incur litigation risk and also continuously improve on operational efficiencies. A company with strong emphasis on safety and talent retention will likely incur lower hiring and training costs from lower turnover rates.


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

What the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) aims to do, is to establish a framework such that organisations may report on data which is comparable – much like IFRS equivalent for financial reporting. GRI guidelines are the most established framework used. More than 5000 companies adopt GRI guidelines (GRI, 2012), including 80% of Global Fortune 250 companies (KPMG, 2011). 


Singapore and Malaysia

The number of GRI reports in Singapore and Malaysia have grown steadily over the past 5 years, with more than 5 times the number of reports today than in 2008.

In 2008, the Malaysian Stock Exchange Bursa Malaysia made it mandatory for all listed firms to disclose corporate social responsibility (CSR) information.

In 2012, Singapore Exchange (SGX) has announced an intention to move towards a comply-or-explain approach for its listed firms, following its release of a Policy Statement and Guide to Sustainability Reporting in 2010 and 2011 respectively. SGX has also organised various initiatives, including revising the Singapore Code of Corporate Governance to explicitly mention environmental and social considerations for Board and releasing an Investor Guide to Reading Sustainability Reports. Read more about SGX’s recent key initiatives here.

The following graphs aim to give a quick snapshot of the sustainability reporting scene in Singapore and Malaysia.

b2ap3_thumbnail_SG3Oct13.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_Msia3Oct13.jpg


Below are the 23 GRI reports published in Singapore in 2012. 





Asia Pacific Breweries Limited (APBL)

2011 Sustainability Report



CapitaLand Sustainability Report 2011


City Developments Limited

CDL Sustainability Report 2012


DyStar Singapore

Sustainability Report 2011


First Resources

Towards Sustainability: First Resources Limited Sustainability Report 2011


Fuji Xerox Singapore

Fuji Xerox Singapore 2012 Singapore Report


Golden Agri-Resources Ltd

Preserving the Present Ensuring the Future: Sustainability Report 2011


Keppel Corporation

Sustainability Report 2011





Keppel T&T

Sustainability Report 2011


KPMG Singapore

Sustainability Report 2012


National Environment Agency

Sustainability Report FY11


Olam International Limited

Olam corporate responsibility and sustainabilty report 2012


Power Seraya

Corporate Accountability Report 2011


Sembcorp Industries Ltd

Sembcorp Industries Annual Report 2011


Sembcorp Marine Ltd

Annual Report 2011


Siloso Beach Resort, Sentosa

Siloso Beach Resort Sustainabilty Report 2012


Singapore Exchange (SGX)

The Asian Gateway: Singapore Exchange Annual Report 2012 July 2011 – June 2012


SingTel – Singapore Telecommunications Limited

Connecting People, Touching Lives



Annual Report 2011 (Hubbing, Achieving and Even More)


Swire Pacific Offshore

2011 Annual Report


Tuas Power

Sustainability Report 2012


Wilmar International

Staying the Course through Challenging Times

 Source: GRI Database & Paia Consulting (3 Oct 2013)


Below are the 17 GRI reports published in Malaysia in 2012. 

Paia is the appointed GRI Data Partner for Malaysia. If your report is not reflected here or the GRI Database, please email us at 





Bumi Armada

Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2011


CIMB Foundation under CIMB Group

Sustainability Report 2011



2011 Corporate Sustainability Report

4 Berhad

DiGi.Com Berhad Sustainability Report 2011 – Transforming to Deliver Internet fo


Guinness Anchor Berhad

Corporate Responsibility Report 2011


Keenway Industries Sdn. Bhd.

Sustainability Report 2011


Encorp Berhad

Sustainability Report 2011



Sustainability Report 2010/2011



Sustainabiltiy Report 2010/2011


Media Prima

Media Prima Berhad Sustainability Report 2011



Sustainability Report 2011


Plus Expressways Berhad

PLUS Expressways Sustainability Report 2011


Puncak Niaga

Expanding Horizons – Annual Report 2011


Sime Darby Berhad

Sustainability Report 2011



Sunway Sustainability Report 2011


Telekom Malaysia

Telekom Malaysia Sustainability Report 2011


UEM Environment

UEME Sustainability Report 2011

Source: GRI Database (3 Oct 2013)


Paia Consulting is a leading sustainability consultancy established since 2002. We helped produce Singapore’s first GRI report and many award-winning reports. Beyond reporting, many of the companies leading sustainability locally are our clients.

Drop us a note at to discuss how we may support your sustainability journey.