How to Define What Is Material


How to Define What Is Material

"What matters and where it matters"

The purpose of the G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines is to guide organizations through the process of preparing sustainability reports focused on the material Aspects (or other material topics). These are the ones to be prioritized by the organization to be measured and managed. For an overview of all of the Aspects presented in G4, click here.

The identification of the material Aspects (or other material topics) depends on an assessment of the impacts resulting from the organization’s activities. These impacts might be identified inside or outside of the organization's direct control. In order to assess these impacts, the organization dialogs with different stakeholders (and experts), identifies the impacts to be considered, and prioritizes those which are considered material.

In order to help organizations in the identification of their material Aspects (or other material topics), the G4 Guidelines describe a sequence of steps to be planned and implemented. This four step process provides a structured way for organizations to implement the ‘Principles for Defining Report Content’ and identify their material Aspects and Boundaries.

The four steps are:
  1. Identification
  2. Prioritization
  3. Validation
  4. Review

Each of the four steps addresses specific elements in how to define “what matters and where it matters”. This is best presented in the model shown in the figure below.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the content of the General Standard Disclosures related to this process (G4-17 to G4-27), in particular G4-18, for which detailed information on these steps is presented in the Guidance section. Without first selecting the material Aspects to be disclosed, it is not possible to prepare a G4-based report.

See also the Quick Links section 'Process for Defining Reporting Content – Summary' for an overview of the steps.

The blue text on this page is explanatory and it is not extracted from the G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.