The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), one of the leading organizations promoting standardized ESG reporting, announced today the launch of a new disclosure standard for the coal sector, aimed at guiding companies in the sector to communicate their impacts on the economy, environment and people.

The coal sector is coming under particular pressure as companies, investors and governments become increasingly focused on pursuing decarbonization goals. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal-fired electricity generation accounts for approximately 30% of global CO2 emissions. Until significant investments are made in alternative energy sources, however, coal will likely continue to dominate the energy mix. Thermal coal is the highest carbon emitting source of energy in the global fuel mix, yet it makes up nearly 40% of the world’s energy supply.

Judy Kuszewski, Chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board, the independent entity that sets the GRI Standards, said:

 “It is abundantly clear that, to reach the ambition in the Paris Agreement, an urgent transition away from coal has to be a part of the solution. Indeed, as the UN Secretary-General set out in response to the new assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coal and fossil fuels are “choking humanity.”

 “That is why more scrutiny is needed on the companies that remain in the coal sector, with accountability for their impacts. GRI’s Coal Standard reflects these challenges – not only in terms of climate change and a just transition, but across the full socio-economic and environmental spectrum. From minimizing waste to corruption-free operations, GRI 12 guides companies to deliver comprehensive and comparable reporting.”

According to the GRI, the new standard aims to enable coal companies to report on issues including their response to climate change mitigation demands, including plans to transition away from coal mining, social impacts ranging from human rights to employee and community safety and wellbeing, measures to manage environmental and biodiversity impacts, and the effects of coal mine closures on communities and workers, among others.

The release of the new standard follows the publication last year of GRI’s first sector standard, targeting the oil and gas sector. The organization has plans to release additional sector standards going forward, including agriculture, aquaculture & fishing this summer, followed by standards for sectors including mining, textiles & apparel, and food & beverage.

Anne-Claire Howard, former CEO of Bettercoal and ResponsibleSteel, and a member of the GRI working group, said:

“While it is clear that the world must radically reduce its use of coal, we cannot ignore that coal continues to be consumed. Therefore, we need to home in on the sustainability performance of coal companies and assets, as opposed to simply removing them from investment portfolios. That is why the new GRI Sector Standard for Coal is so important.

 “The Standard seeks to reconcile two opposing forces: the unacceptable climate impacts from coal mining, and the broader impacts from the continuation of existing production. Measuring and reducing emissions from mining operations is one aspect, while social issues such as working conditions and labor rights also need to be managed. As such, the way this Standard frames a just transition is highly relevant.”

Click here to access GRI’s new coal Sector Standard.