SASB works alongside and with multiple organizations seeking to advance corporate disclosure on sustainability issues. SASB complements global initiatives including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and others. As many companies publicly-listed in the U.S. are global entities, and many global companies trade on U.S. exchanges and must comply with SEC regulation, any reporting mandated by the SEC will have a global impact. Hence, SASB seeks harmonization of global standards for ease of use by all companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges that elect to disclose on more than the minimal material issues as defined by SASB.
When formulating accounting metrics for material sustainability issues, SASB considers the existing body of disclosure standards and uses existing standards whenever possible. Harmonizing SASB standards with existing disclosure standards avoids additional costs for companies and aligns SASB’s work with global corporate transparency efforts.
For more information about the organizations SASB works with and alongside, please see below.
In May 2013 SASB and CDP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to deepen our partnership towards advancing corporate disclosure on material sustainability issues. CDP runs the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), an entity dedicated to the integration of climate change-related disclosure into mainstream corporate reporting. The purpose of the MOU is to promote greater support for the development of disclosure standards for climate change-related issues. Under the MOU, SASB utilizes CDP’s data as evidence for determining the materiality of climate change-related issues in certain industries. SASB also receives technical assistance in referencing CDSB protocols for disclosure of carbon emissions.
SASB, GRI and IIRC
The efforts of SASB, the IIRC and GRI contribute to a common end goal: the advancement of corporate sustainability reporting. While SASB, the IIRC and GRI are working towards complementary visions, each organization has a different approach. SASB’s standards are industry-specific, focus on the minimum-set of material issues, and serve investors and corporations. SASB’s standards are designed for disclosure in mandatory filings to the SEC, such as the Form 10-K and 20-F. The GRI and IIRC produce international, voluntary frameworks for reporting to a broader range of stakeholders. For more details on similarities and differences, please see the below table.
The products of SASB, the IIRC and GRI can be used in complementary ways—the SASB standards to guide the disclosure of material sustainability issues in a 10-K form for investors, the GRI framework to guide the development of a voluntary sustainability report for all stakeholders, and the IIRC guidelines to inform the development of an integrated annual report, if desired. The SASB sustainability accounting standards provide clear guidance on what issues are material for companies to report on—in their sustainability or integrated reports—within their specific industries, and to synchronize these voluntary communications with the information provided in mandatory filings.
|Type of Guidance||Standards||Guidance||Framework|
|Target Disclosure||Mandatory filing||Voluntary report||Voluntary report|
|Target Reporters||Public companies traded on US exchanges||Public and private companies||Public companies traded on international exchanges|
|Target Audience||Investors||All stakeholders||Investors|
|Type of Organization||501(c)3||NGO||NGO|
|Definition of Materiality||Information is material if “a substantial likelihood that the disclosure of the omitted fact would have been viewed by the reasonable investor as having significantly altered the ‘total mix’ of the information made available.” (U.S. Supreme Court definition, (TSC Indus. V. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438 (1976) and Basic v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988))||Information that “may reasonably be considered important for reflecting the organization’s economic, environmental and social impacts, or influencing the decisions of stakeholders” (GRI definition)||“A matter is material if it is of such relevance and importance4 that it could substantively5 influence the assessments of providers of financial capital with regard to the organization’s ability to create value over the short, medium and long term.” (IIRC definition)|
The Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI)
The IRI at Harvard University collaborates with SASB in three ways.
- The IRI is conducting research into the methods for determining non-financial materiality, with the goal of arriving at a generally accepted view suitable for use by financial and non-financial accounting professionals.
- The IRI provided guiding principles by which the sustainability accounting standards are developed, ensuring consistency across all industries.
- The IRI convened the first Standards Council , an external oversight body comprised of experts in sustainability research, analysis, disclosure and standards setting.