Understanding Quantitative Measurements in a ESG Report

Understanding Quantitative Measurements in a ESG Report

Sustainability reporting frameworks like GRI are built on both qualitative and quantitative data—but understanding the quantitative data in your ESG report can be tricky. 

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your ESG reporting, the Sandaper team put together this short (but comprehensive) guide to understanding quantitative measurements in your ESG report.

Read on to learn more.

Understanding the GRI Framework

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an NGO and international standards organization (ISO) dedicated to sustainability reporting. 

The GRI framework provides a comprehensive set of guidelines for organizations and companies to report on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance accurately and transparently. It is an internationally accepted standard that has helped 10,000+ companies from 100+ countries report on sustainability and compare performance.

Issuing a GRI-compliant report means adhering to the GRI framework’s guidelines, which include (among other things) guidelines for reporting quantitative performance data.

GRI Quantitative Measurements

So, what kind of quantitative performance data do organizations and companies need to report according to GRI guidelines? 

Here are some examples:

  • Energy consumption
  • Water use
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Waste generated
  • Employee data (headcounts, demographics, attendance, etc.)
  • Product safety standards
  • Supply chain management (and compliance with foreign labor laws)
  • Community involvement activities and programs

To ensure accuracy and standardization, each quantitative measure in the framework is governed by a specific protocol. This includes defining the metrics to be reported, the process for collecting data, and procedures for making sure that data is accurate and up-to-date.

GRI Framework Quantitative Data Methodology

Units of Measurement

Standardizing units of measurement is part of what makes GRI such a powerful tool for comparison and benchmarking. No matter where a company is located (and what units of measurement are used there), quantitative data can be reported uniformly.

Here is a breakdown of some of the units used for GRI-compliant reporting:


  • Energy consumption: Units can be kilowatt-hours (kWh) or megajoules (MJ).
  • Energy intensity: This can be expressed as energy consumed per production unit, sales, or other relevant activity. Units can be in kWh per unit or MJ per unit.


  • Greenhouse gas emissions: Units can be in metric tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) or kilograms of CO2 equivalent (kgCO2e).
  • Emission intensity: This can be expressed as emissions per unit of activity, output, or revenue. Units can be in tCO2e per unit or kgCO2e per unit.


  • Water consumption: Units can be cubic meters (m³) or liters (L).
  • Water withdrawal: Units can be in or liters L.
  • Water intensity: This can be expressed as water consumed or withdrawn per unit of production, sales, or other relevant activity. Units can be in m³ per unit or L per unit.


  • Waste generation: Units can be in metric tons (t) or kilograms (kg).
  • Recycling and diversion rates: These can be expressed as percentages (%).


  • Material consumption: Units can vary depending on the reported material, such as metric tons (t) or kilograms (kg).
  • Material intensity: This can be expressed as material consumed per production unit, sales, or other relevant activity. Units can be in t per unit or kg per unit.

Social Indicators

  • Employment: Number of employees, full-time equivalents (FTEs), or headcount.
  • Employee turnover rates: This can be expressed as a percentage (%).
  • Occupational health and safety: Units can be in total recordable injury rates (TRIR) or lost time injury frequency rates (LTIFR).


Currency isn’t standardized due to exchange rate fluctuation.

Data Collection

Units of measurement are just the tip of the iceberg—quantitative data needs to be collected carefully to ensure that it’s accurate and representative. And while GRI doesn’t require specific data collection methodologies, certain collection methods are recommended.

Primary Data Collection

Primary data collection involves collecting data directly from the source. This can be done through: 

  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Field visits

Secondary Data Collection

Secondary data is collected from sources that are already present. Sources include: 

  • Websites
  • Past reports
  • Company records
  • Financial statements
  • Scientific studies

Expert Estimation

In some cases, expert estimation may be required to quantify specific data points, especially when direct measurement or monitoring is impossible. This can involve the use of expert judgment or models to estimate data.

External Assurance

Organizations may obtain external assurance for their sustainability data, which involves independent verification and validation of the reported information by a third party. External assurance can enhance the credibility and reliability of the reported data.

For example, you may not have the emissions-tracking capabilities needed to generate an emissions figure for your delivery fleet. In this case, you could engage an external auditor to review your fleet and associated activities and provide an estimate of the total emissions for the reporting period.

Ensuring Accuracy and Reliability

Once data is collected, it needs to be verified. This can be done through internal or external audits (conducted by a third party) to ensure the data is accurate and reliable. Verifying sustainability data will also involve ensuring that data is collected consistently across multiple sources and that any errors or omissions are identified and addressed.


Reporting and Disclosure

Last but certainly not least, companies should publish their sustainability data in an accessible format. This will allow stakeholders to easily access and review the data, helping to ensure transparency and accountability.

It’s helpful to work with a trusted partner familiar with GRI reporting conventions to design a report that’s accessible, compliant, and effective. At Sandpaper, we’ve helped clients around the MENA region create sustainability reports for over a decade.

Writing a sustainability report involves more than just data collection and verification.

Companies must also consider the audience they share the data with and design a report effectively communicating their progress toward sustainability goals. This can include using interactive visuals, diagrams, infographics, or other formats to illustrate complex information in an easy-to-understand way.


Understanding GRI conventions and requirements surrounding quantitative data collection, calculation, and reporting is a prerequisite to producing a successful sustainability report.

Not sure where to start? Sandpaper can help.

We work with businesses throughout the data collection and report creation process to ensure accurate, reliable, and timely reporting. Using interactive visuals, diagrams, infographics, or other formats to illustrate complex information in an easy-to-understand way, we can help businesses create a meaningful sustainability report that is accessible and engaging for stakeholders.

Contact us today to discuss your needs.