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 the SASB is to maintain sustainability accounting standards that help public corporations disclose material, decision-useful information to investors in SEC filings. That mission is accomplished through a rigorous process that includes evidence-based research and broad, balanced stakeholder participation. The SASB, through its Foundation, also provides education and resources that advance use of the standards.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) was founded in 2011 as an independent standards-setting organization. SASB maintains sustainability accounting standards for 79 industries, focusing on the subset of industry-specific sustainability factors that are reasonably likely to have material impacts. Companies can use the standards to disclose material information to investors in SEC filings, such as the Forms 10-K, 20-F, and 40-F, in a cost-effective and decision-useful manner. The standards are designed to help companies comply with existing regulatory obligations, working within the framework of existing U.S. securities laws.
The SASB Standards Board is responsible for adopting the standards, maintaining technical agendas, proposing updates to the standards, and taking overall responsibility for the standard setting process. The SASB staff is responsible for executing research and engaging in consultation on the standards.
The Need for SASB
Investors increasingly acknowledge that environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors impact a company’s ability to manage risk and deliver financial performance over the long-term. As such, many investors use ESG information to develop a comprehensive view of company performance and to evaluate a company’s long-term value. However, to do so in a rigorous and scalable way, investors need data that is relevant, reliable, and comparable. This is the need SASB was created to address.
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 disclosure requirements and financial reporting standards designed to protect investors and the public.
SASB continues this evolution 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 corporate performance and prospects.
The Evolution of SASB
In 2010, researchers at the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI) at Harvard University began researching the materiality of sustainability information and its application at an industry level. Steve Lydenberg and David Wood of the IRI, along with their colleague Dr. Jean Rogers, developed and tested a methodology for determining industry-specific material issues and associated performance indicators. The results were published in August, 2010, in a paper entitled 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. From October 2012 through May 2016, SASB followed a rigorous, evidence-based and market-informed process to develop and issue provisional standards for 79 industries.
In 2017, SASB restructured itself to ensure greater independence and objectivity in the standard setting process and to mirror the organizational arrangement that exists at the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). In the new model, an entity called the SASB Foundation is responsible for finances and governance. The Foundation delegates authority for standards setting to the SASB, a newly appointed standards board. The SASB Standards Board is responsible for setting the standards, maintaining technical agendas, proposing updates to the standards, and taking overall responsibility for the standard setting process. The SASB Board of Directors became the directors of The SASB Foundation.