The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board sets industry-specific standards for corporate sustainability disclosure, with a view towards ensuring that disclosure is material, comparable, and decision-useful for investors.
SASB envisions a world where a shared understanding of corporate sustainability performance allows companies and investors to make informed decisions that drive value and improve sustainability outcomes.
The mission of SASB is to develop and disseminate sustainability accounting standards that help public corporations disclose material, decision-useful information to investors.
That mission is accomplished through a rigorous process that includes evidence-based research and broad, balanced stakeholder participation.
The Need for SASB
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.
- The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit.
- Through 2016, SASB is developing sustainability accounting standards for approximately 80 industries in 10 sectors.
- SASB standards are designed for the disclosure of material sustainability information in mandatory SEC filings, such as Form 10-K and 20-F.
- SASB is also an ANSI-accredited standards developer. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that SASB’s procedures to develop standards meet ANSI’s requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process.
- SASB is not affiliated with FASB, GASB, IASB or any other accounting standards boards.
For more information about the principles, processes, and definitions relevant to SASB’s standards-setting process, please read our Conceptual Framework.
A Natural Progression
SASB’s mission is a natural evolution in the history of corporate reporting. The Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 led to the formation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which Congress empowered to require and oversee corporate disclosure. This historic move, coupled with the creation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in 1973, led to establishing financial reporting standards and disclosure requirements aimed at protecting investors and the public.
SASB continues the tradition of high-quality disclosure by extending accounting infrastructure to material sustainability factors. Sustainability accounting standards are intended as a complement to financial accounting standards, such that financial fundamentals and sustainability fundamentals can be evaluated side by side to provide a complete view of a corporation’s performance.
The Genesis of SASB
In 2010, researchers at the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI) at Harvard University began researching non-financial materiality and its application at an industry level. Steve Lydenberg and David Wood of the IRI, along with their colleague Jean Rogers, set out to develop and test a methodology for determining industry-specific material issues and their associated performance indicators. A method for identifying material factors at the industry level was honed and applied to six industries. Tailored performance indicators were developed for the material factors in each industry, derived from evaluating indicators already in use by companies and analysts to describe those particular issues. The results were published in August, 2010, as From Transparency to Performance.
Due to an overwhelmingly positive response to the study, the authors began exploring ways to develop a full set of industry indicators, including the creation of an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit. To fill this need, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board was developed and incorporated in July, 2011.