Relevant Issues (7 of 26)
The SASB Standards vary by industry based on the different sustainability risks and opportunities within an industry. The issues in grey were not identified during the standard-setting process as the most likely to impact enterprise value, so they are not included in the Standard. Over time, as the SASB Standards Board continues to receive market feedback, some issues may be added or removed from the Standard. Each company makes their own determination about whether or not a sustainability issue may impact its ability to create enterprise value. The Standard is designed for the typical company in an industry, but individual companies may choose to report on different sustainability issues based on their unique business model. Why are some issues greyed out?
- GHG Emissions The category addresses direct (Scope 1) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that a company generates through its operations. This includes GHG emissions from stationary (e.g., factories, power plants) and mobile sources (e.g., trucks, delivery vehicles, planes), whether a result of combustion of fuel or non-combusted direct releases during activities such as natural resource extraction, power generation, land use, or biogenic processes. The category further includes management of regulatory risks, environmental compliance, and reputational risks and opportunities, as they related to direct GHG emissions. The seven GHGs covered under the Kyoto Protocol are included within the category—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
- Air Quality
- Energy Management The category addresses environmental impacts associated with energy consumption. It addresses the company’s management of energy in manufacturing and/or for provision of products and services derived from utility providers (grid energy) not owned or controlled by the company. More specifically, it includes management of energy efficiency and intensity, energy mix, as well as grid reliance. Upstream (e.g., suppliers) and downstream (e.g., product use) energy use is not included in the scope.
- Water & Wastewater Management The category addresses a company’s water use, water consumption, wastewater generation, and other impacts of operations on water resources, which may be influenced by regional differences in the availability and quality of and competition for water resources. More specifically, it addresses management strategies including, but not limited to, water efficiency, intensity, and recycling. Lastly, the category also addresses management of wastewater treatment and discharge, including groundwater and aquifer pollution.
- Waste & Hazardous Materials Management
- Ecological Impacts
- Human Rights & Community Relations
- Customer Privacy
- Data Security
- Access & Affordability
- Product Quality & Safety The category addresses issues involving unintended characteristics of products sold or services provided that may create health or safety risks to end-users. It addresses a company’s ability to offer manufactured products and/or services that meet customer expectations with respect to their health and safety characteristics. It includes, but is not limited to, issues involving liability, management of recalls and market withdrawals, product testing, and chemicals/content/ingredient management in products.
- Customer Welfare
- Selling Practices & Product Labeling
- Labor Practices
- Employee Health & Safety The category addresses a company’s ability to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace environment that is free of injuries, fatalities, and illness (both chronic and acute). It is traditionally accomplished through implementing safety management plans, developing training requirements for employees and contractors, and conducting regular audits of their own practices as well as those of their subcontractors. The category further captures how companies ensure physical and mental health of workforce through technology, training, corporate culture, regulatory compliance, monitoring and testing, and personal protective equipment.
- Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion
Business Model & Innovation
- Product Design & Lifecycle Management
- Business Model Resilience
- Supply Chain Management The category addresses management of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks within a company’s supply chain. It addresses issues associated with environmental and social externalities created by suppliers through their operational activities. Such issues include, but are not limited to, environmental responsibility, human rights, labor practices, and ethics and corruption. Management may involve screening, selection, monitoring, and engagement with suppliers on their environmental and social impacts. The category does not address the impacts of external factors – such as climate change and other environmental and social factors – on suppliers’ operations and/or on the availability and pricing of key resources, which is covered in a separate category.
- Materials Sourcing & Efficiency The category addresses issues related to the resilience of materials supply chains to impacts of climate change and other external environmental and social factors. It captures the impacts of such external factors on operational activity of suppliers, which can further affect availability and pricing of key resources. It addresses a company’s ability to manage these risks through product design, manufacturing, and end-of-life management, such as by using of recycled and renewable materials, reducing the use of key materials (dematerialization), maximizing resource efficiency in manufacturing, and making R&D investments in substitute materials. Additionally, companies can manage these issues by screening, selection, monitoring, and engagement with suppliers to ensure their resilience to external risks. It does not address issues associated with environmental and social externalities created by operational activity of individual suppliers, which is covered in a separate category.
- Physical Impacts of Climate Change
Leadership & Governance
- Business Ethics
- Competitive Behavior
- Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment
- Critical Incident Risk Management
- Systemic Risk Management
The General Issue Category is an industry-agnostic version of the Disclosure Topics that appear in each SASB Standard. Disclosure topics represent the industry-specific impacts of General Issue Categories. The industry-specific Disclosure Topics ensure each SASB Standard is tailored to the industry, while the General Issue Categories enable comparability across industries. For example, Health & Nutrition is a disclosure topic in the Non-Alcoholic Beverages industry, representing an industry-specific measure of the general issue of Customer Welfare. The issue of Customer Welfare, however, manifests as the Counterfeit Drugs disclosure topic in the Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals industry. What is the relationship between General Issue Category and Disclosure Topics?
Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for:
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Companies in the Agricultural Products industry generate direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the processing and transportation of goods via land and sea freight operations. Emissions regulations may increase the cost of capital, operational costs, and affect the operational efficiency of companies that do not have strategies in place to manage GHG emissions. Employing innovative technologies that use alternative fuels and energy inputs—including biomass waste generated from internal processes—and improving fuel efficiency are ways companies can limit exposure to volatile fuel pricing, supply disruptions, future regulatory costs, and other potential consequences of GHG emissions.
Processing and milling agricultural products requires substantial energy input. While some agricultural products companies generate energy on-site through the direct combustion of fossil fuels and/or biomass, most energy is procured from the electrical grid. Energy consumption contributes to environmental impacts, including climate change and pollution. Energy management affects current and future costs of operation. Climate regulation and other sustainability factors could result in higher and/or more volatile electricity and fuel prices, increasing operating costs for agricultural products companies. Therefore, energy efficiency gained through process improvements can lower operating costs. The tradeoff between on-site versus grid-sourced electricity as well as the use of alternative energy can play important roles in influencing both the long-term cost and reliability of a company’s energy supply and the extent of regulatory impact from direct versus indirect emissions.
Water & Wastewater Management
The Agricultural Products industry relies on water for processing activities, and companies in the industry also typically generate wastewater, or effluent. The availability of water, due to physical availability and/or regulatory access, directly impacts the industry’s ability to efficiently operate processing facilities. Companies in the industry are increasingly exposed to water-related risks and regulations, which may increase capital expenditure costs, operating costs, remediation costs, and/or potential fines. Companies can manage water-related risks and opportunities and mitigate long-term costs through capital investments and assessment of facility locations relative to water scarcity risks, improvements to operational efficiency, and work with regulators and communities on issues related to water access and effluent. Risks related to crop production that are driven by water availability and access are addressed in a separate supply chain-oriented topic, Ingredient Sourcing.
Product Quality & Safety
Agricultural products are either sold directly to consumers in raw form or are further processed before reaching consumers. Maintaining product quality and safety is critical, as contamination by pathogens, chemicals, or spoilage presents serious human and animal health risks. Contamination may result from poor farming, transport, storage, or handling practices. Food quality and safety issues can lead to consumer-driven demand changes and regulatory action. Product recalls can harm brand reputation, reduce revenues, and lead to costly fines. Obtaining food safety certifications or ensuring suppliers meet food safety guidelines may help companies in the industry safeguard against product safety risks and communicate the quality of their products to buyers.
Employee Health & Safety
Workforce Health & Safety
Industrial processes used in the Agricultural Products industry present significant occupational hazards. Employees are engaged in many labor-intensive activities. Common hazards include falls, transportation accidents, equipment-related accidents, and heat-related illness or injury, among others. Violations of health and safety standards could result in monetary penalties and costs for corrective actions. High injury rates, particularly fatality rates, may indicate a weak governance structure and a weak workplace safety culture, as well as lead to significant reputational harm. Strong performance on managing workforce health and safety can help build brand image while promoting worker morale, which may lead to increased productivity, reduced worker turnover, and enhanced community relations.
Supply Chain Management
Environmental & Social Impacts of Ingredient Supply Chain
Agricultural products companies source agricultural inputs from a large number of suppliers. How companies in the industry screen, monitor, and engage with suppliers on environmental and social topics may impact consumer demand, reputational risks, and the ability of companies to effectively manage their crop supply and respond to price fluctuations. Supply chain management issues related to labor, environmental practices, ethics, or corruption may result in regulatory fines and/or increased long-term operational costs for companies. Similarly, agricultural products companies may face reputational damage if their suppliers perform poorly on environmental or social issues. Companies can mitigate these risks and potentially increase consumer demand or capture new market opportunities by engaging with key suppliers to implement sustainable agricultural practices or source from certified suppliers.
Agricultural products developed using genetically modified organism (GMO) technology have gained increasing consumer interest. While GMO technology has, in many cases, enabled improvements in crop yield through development of disease or drought resistant traits in plants, there is increasing consumer concern on the perceived health, environmental, and/or social impacts related to the cultivation and consumption of GMOs. Certain countries and geographic regions have also enacted regulations that ban the usage or cultivation of GMOs. Food and beverage companies along the food supply chain, including companies in this industry, are seeking effective means to assess GMO-related risks and opportunities, and communicate with consumers on the topic. Agricultural products companies that are able to meet changing consumer trends and regulatory changes through their product mix or effective communications may reduce potential reputational risks and revenue loss as well as capture new market share opportunities.
Materials Sourcing & Efficiency
Agricultural products companies source a wide variety of commodities and ingredients from farmers and/or intermediary distributors. The industry’s ability to reliably source ingredients at desired price points fluctuates with crop yield, which may be affected by climate change, water scarcity, land management, and other resource scarcity considerations. Companies that source more productive and less resource-intensive crops, or those that work closely with suppliers to increase their adaptability to climate change and other resource scarcity risks, will be better protected from volatility in crop prices and from disruptions in crop supplies. Additionally, companies may improve their brand reputation and develop new market opportunities. Failure to effectively manage sourcing risks can lead to higher costs of capital, reduced margins, and constrained revenue growth.
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