SASB Symposium 2017: A Quick Recap

SASB Symposium
Mary Schapiro, Mike Bloomberg and Bill McNabb discuss sustainability and ESG at the SASB Symposium. Photo by Reese Nanavati.

Thanks so much for those who attended the second annual SASB Symposium! This year’s event was a spectacular convening that brought together people across the ESG conversation: professionals in sustainability, finance, accounting, and law.

Here are some highlights from the event:

We heard from Michael Bloomberg, Chairman, The SASB Foundation Board, Bill McNabb, Chairman and CEO, Vanguard, and Mary Schapiro, former Chair, SEC, about the dynamism of the marketplace compared to regulation when it comes to sustainability information, and the value of letting the marketplace address the need for higher quality data. The speakers also noted that SASB fosters comparability and creates decision-useful information for companies.

SASB Symposium
Jean Rogers speaks during her opening remarks at the SASB Symposium 2017. Photo by Reese Nanavati.

Jean Rogers, Chair of the SASB Standards Board, discussed the need for good sustainability data and the role market participants can play in shaping the final SASB Standards.

“ESG is not a separate wedge in the color-coded pie chart of asset allocation…it’s the whole pie.” – Jean Rogers

Sophia Mendelsohn JetBlue SASB Symposium
Sophia Mendelsohn of JetBlue explains how her company has incorporated SASB Standards into its sustainability disclosure. Photo by Reese Nanavati.

Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability at JetBlue, emphasized the need for sustainability issues to be championed throughout corporate organizations, rather than in isolated departments, during a panel addressing the disconnect between companies and investors.

SASB Symposium
George Serafeim details the relationship between material factors and financial performance. Photo by Reese Nanavati.

George Serafeim, Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, quantified the effect on financial returns among those companies with high performance on material issues. For example, he showed slides detailing the effect material sustainability information has on stock price performance.

The final panel of the day featured a discussion about the future of material sustainability disclosure. Panelists highlightedresearchdemonstrating the financial upside awaiting companies who incorporate ESG issues into their operations.

SASB Symposium
Savita Subramanian, Chris Holmes, and Stephanie Tang debate the future of material sustainability disclosure. Photo by Reese Nanavati.

SASB also launched several new publications and editions at the Symposium, including:

  1. The State of Disclosure Report – 2017: This annual publication assesses the state of the market related to corporate disclosure on SASB topics and helps readers perform year-over-year comparisons among related to those corporate disclosure practices
  2. ESG Integration Insights – 2017 Omnibus: This collection of case studies shows how firms across asset classes are using and referencing SASB Standards
  3. Legal Roundtable: This publication summarizes a discussion that took place at Harvard Law School related to the legal questions surrounding sustainability disclosure and how to move past any remaining obstacles to implementation
  4. The SASB Brochure: This document provides an overview of the development process for SASB Standards, the related methodology, and SASB governance.

The hundreds of people who attended the Symposium were privy to cutting edge research and discussions about the future of ESG. For highlights of the discussion that took place at the Symposium, take a look on Twitter at the #movingthemarket hash tag.

Thanks again to everyone who made this year’s Symposium a great one! We’re excited for and already looking ahead to next year’s event!