The U.S. financial accounting system, which requires transparent disclosure of material information to investors, plays a fundamental role in making our markets the most efficient, liquid, and resilient in the world. However, the construct for standardized financial reporting to investors was developed in a time when a company’s ability to create value was constrained largely by the ability to access financial capital.
We live in a different world now, one that has greater uncertainty, a broader range of risks and opportunities, and significant resource constraints beyond access to capital. A new, standardized language is needed to articulate the material, non-financial risks and opportunities facing companies today. These non-financial risks and opportunities that affect corporations’ ability to create long-term value are characterized as “sustainability” issues. Sustainability issues vary by industry because they are closely aligned with business models, the way companies compete, their use of resources, and their impact on society.
For this reason, SASB is immersed in understanding, interpreting, and measuring relevant sustainability issues at the industry level, in order that they can be measured, managed, and disclosed.
What Makes SASB Different?
Existing sustainability reporting entities provide guidelines or frameworks. They do not follow a standard process for assessing the material impacts of sustainability issues within each industry, nor do they provide industry-specific performance metrics. They are not designed for concise or integrated disclosure in Form 10-K or 20-F filings, which is an appropriate disclosure channel to provide investors with a complete view of material financial and sustainability information.
SASB’s sustainability accounting standards are the first that truly enable comparison of peer performance and benchmarking within an industry. SASB’s unique focus on U.S. public equities, industry-specific approach to sustainability issues, and identification of a minimum set of disclosure topics differentiates it from existing sustainability frameworks. For more information about SASB’s approach, and the intended uses of our standards by investors and corporations, please read our Conceptual Framework.
SASB believes that all investors have a right to material non-financial information. SASB provides all investor types with decision-useful information to assess the long-term value-creation potential of a company or industry, based on how well it manages all forms of capital in a resource constrained world.
SASB standards provide investors with a comprehensive view of a corporation’s sustainability risks and opportunities. With SASB standards, investors can:
- Compare peer performance on the sustainability issues most likely to impact value
- Adjust valuation models to incorporate material sustainability impacts
- Understand which industries are facing sustainability headwinds
- Engage with companies to improve performance on material sustainability factors
- Understand sustainability risks and opportunities across a portfolio
- Direct capital toward the most sustainable corporations and industries
Research analysts gain sustainability data for benchmarking, ranking, and rating, at both the corporate and industry levels. Analysts shift from time-intensive data gathering to what they do best: rigorous data analysis. SASB’s sustainability accounting standards provide research analysts with a more complete view of company performance.
SASB’s sustainability accounting standards are comparable, concise, verifiable, and cost-effective. The standards have been developed with these principles in mind for ease of verification. SASB’s technical protocols provide the basis for suitable criteria (as defined by AT 101) should a company elect to engage an independent, third-party assurance provider.
By using SASB’s sustainability accounting standards to disclose material sustainability information companies improve operational performance and reduce risk. Corporate resources can be focused on improving performance on the dimensions of sustainability that are most important for long-term value creation.
- Measure, manage, and disclose sustainability impacts according to industry-specific performance indicators
- Save time and expense on reporting, a much needed reprieve from questionnaire fatigue
- Compare their performance with competitors and industry benchmarks
- More fully understand the key, systemic sustainability issues facing their industry, informing resource allocation strategies
- Comply with SEC guidance related to disclosing material information
Consultants will be able to help companies improve performance on key sustainability issues. The nature of sustainability consultations ranges widely from more efficient energy use to increased employee engagement. With SASB’s sustainability accounting standards and the data companies generate based on them, consultants will be able to work with companies to overcome intractable industry issues and improve performance on the critical dimensions of sustainability that matter for long-term value creation.