The SASB Materiality Map™ is an interactive tool that identifies and compares disclosure topics across different industries and sectors.
|Corporate Use of Materiality Map™||Investor Use of Materiality Map™|
|Focus sustainability strategies on the most important issues and understand the metrics that underpin each disclosure topic.||Analyze portfolio exposure to specific sustainability risks and opportunities represented by each issue.|
How the Map was Created
SASB’s Materiality Map™ is based on tests designed to prioritize issues on behalf of the “reasonable investor.” The Map relies heavily on two types of evidence: evidence of investor interest, and evidence of financial impact. A forward-looking adjustment acknowledges emerging issues which are not yet reflected in the evidence-based tests. Provisional standards were then developed based on both the quantitative results from the Map and a qualitative research process informed by SASB’s research team.
SASB’s work began with a universe of 30 sustainability issues organized under five broad dimensions: Environment, Social Capital, Human Capital, Business Model & Innovation, and Leadership & Governance. SASB analyzes the importance of each issue in the context of the 79 industries in SICS™.
To determine which sustainability topics were likely to be material to particular industries, SASB ran the following tests:
- Evidence of Interest: Evidence of interest was gathered by searching tens of thousands of industry-related documents—Form 10-Ks, shareholder resolutions, CSR reports, media, and SEC comment letters—for keywords related to 30 general sustainability issues. This provided a “heat map” that indicated interest in certain issues by investors and other stakeholders.
- Evidence of Financial Impact: Evidence of financial impact was gathered by examining sell-side research, investor call transcripts, third-party research, datasets on sustainability issues and related costs and regulatory actions, and news articles, among other sources of sustainability and financial information. SASB evaluated whether there was current evidence that management (or mismanagement) of the issue would affect traditional corporate valuation parameters: i.e. profits (revenue and/or costs), assets and liabilities, or cost of capital. This evidence screened the results of the evidence of interest test to identify issues with the potential for financial impact.
- Forward-Looking Impact: In a small number of cases, SASB made an adjustment to an issue to raise its importance based upon traditional sustainability concepts: management or mismanagement of the issue may create positive or negative externalities that other stakeholders, industries, or generations will deal with; and/or there is the potential for systemic disruption. In any case, the impact of the issue must be reasonably likely to occur and of significant magnitude to be included as a SASB disclosure topic. The adjustments to the map allowed SASB to correct for the imperfect state of sustainability reporting, particularly in Form 10-K and CSR reports. Additionally, the media tend to focus on select issues that capture stakeholder attention.
The idea of the Materiality Map was first introduced by the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University in the white paper “From Transparency to Performance: Industry Based Sustainability Reporting on Key Issues.” Today’s Map is adapted from the evidence-based methods piloted in that study.