SASB & Other ESG Frameworks

The Sustainability Reporting Ecosystem

A wide range of constituencies—including investors, companies, policy makers, regulators, NGOs, and civil society—use corporate sustainability reporting to inform a wide range of decisions. A dynamic ecosystem of organizations has evolved to meet these various information needs. Disclosure standards and frameworks, including SASB, are the foundation of this ecosystem. They facilitate the disclosure of comparable, consistent, and reliable ESG information. Using this information, data providers and rating agencies can build tools, analytics, and resources for the capital markets.

Narrowing in on Standards and Frameworks

It’s important to distinguish between sustainability frameworks and sustainability standards. Frameworks provide principles-based guidance on how information is structured, how it is prepared, and what broad topics are covered.  Meanwhile, standards provide specific, detailed, and replicable requirements for what should be reported for each topic, including metrics.  Standards make frameworks actionable, ensuring comparable, consistent, and reliable disclosure. Frameworks and standards are complementary and are designed to be used together.

SASB and Other Organizations

SASB works alongside many organizations to advance alignment towards a comprehensive global system for corporate disclosure.

In September 2020, five leading framework and standard-setting organizations—CDP, CDSB, GRI, IIRC and SASB—announced a shared vision for a comprehensive corporate reporting system that includes both financial accounting and sustainability disclosure, connected via integrated reporting. The joint statement outlines how existing sustainability standards and frameworks can complement generally accepted financial accounting principles (Financial GAAP). Read more about the joint statement and its significance. In December 2020, the “group of five” published a prototype climate-related financial disclosure standard that illustrates how the concepts from our joint paper can be applied to climate disclosure and consolidates content and metrics into one practical guide.

As outlined in these joint statements, these five frameworks and standards offer complementary approaches. These frameworks and standards are designed for unique sets of stakeholders and are based on unique definitions of materiality. Companies can use different frameworks and standards as building blocks to develop a system of disclosure tailored to the unique needs of their stakeholders. Within this system, SASB Standards fill the need for ESG disclosure tailored to investors.

SASB Standards are designed for communication by companies to investors about how sustainability issues drive long-term enterprise value. SASB Standards can be used by companies as a practical tool for implementing the principles-based framework recommended by the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Similarly, SASB Standards enable robust implementation of the Integrated Reporting (<IR>) framework, providing the comparability sought by investors. Other sustainability-related disclosure frameworks serve their own unique purposes, and ultimately, companies must evaluate and decide which meet the needs of their key stakeholders.

In response to global market demands for convergence, in November 2020 the IIRC and SASB announced their intention to merge into a unified organization, the Value Reporting Foundation. The Foundation will merge the SASB and IIRC into a credible, international organization that maintains the Integrated Reporting Framework, advocates integrated thinking, and sets sustainability disclosure standards for enterprise value creation.

The merger will advance the concepts CDP, CDSB, GRI, IIRC and SASB set out in their joint statement. By integrating two entities that are focused on enterprise value creation, this merger represents significant progress towards simplifying the corporate reporting landscape. The Value Reporting Foundation could eventually integrate other entities focused on enterprise value creation, and the Foundation and CDSB have jointly signaled interest in entering exploratory discussions. The Value Reporting Foundation will be formed by mid-2021.

As part of the effort to promote clarity in the sustainability disclosure landscape, in July 2020 SASB and GRI announced a collaborative workplan to show how companies can use both sets of standards together.

SASB and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provide compatible standards for sustainability information, which are designed to fulfill different purposes and are based on different approaches to materiality. SASB Standards focus on ESG issues expected to have a financially material impact on the company, aimed at serving the needs of most investors. GRI Standards focus on the economic, environmental, and social impacts of a company in relation to sustainable development, which is of interest to a broad range of stakeholders, including investors. Many companies—including ArcelorMittal, PSA Group, Diageo, and Nike—use both SASB and GRI standards to meet the needs of their audiences.

The first deliverable of the collaborative workplan is A Practical Guide to Sustainability Reporting Using GRI and SASB Standards, which shows how companies are using the two sets of standards together and provides reporters with insights from peer companies to support their sustainability
reporting and disclosure journeys..

When formulating accounting metrics for its disclosure topics, SASB considers the existing body of reporting standards and uses existing metrics whenever possible. SASB references metrics already in use by industry, from more than 200 entities, such as WHO, CDP, EPA, OSHA and industry organizations such as ICAO, IPIECA, EPRI and GRESB. Aligning SASB standards with existing reporting standards avoids additional costs for companies and aligns SASB’s work with global corporate transparency efforts.