Relevant Issues (4 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
- Air Quality
- Energy Management
- Water & Wastewater Management
- Waste & Hazardous Materials Management
- Ecological Impacts
- Human Rights & Community Relations
- Customer Privacy
- Data Security
- Access & Affordability
- Product Quality & Safety
- Customer Welfare
- Selling Practices & Product Labeling The category addresses social issues that may arise from a failure to manage the transparency, accuracy, and comprehensibility of marketing statements, advertising, and labeling of products and services. It includes, but is not limited to, advertising standards and regulations, ethical and responsible marketing practices, misleading or deceptive labeling, as well as discriminatory or predatory selling and lending practices. This may include deceptive or aggressive selling practices in which incentive structures for employees could encourage the sale of products or services that are not in the best interest of customers or clients.
- Labor Practices
- Employee Health & Safety
- Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion
Business Model & Innovation
- Product Design & Lifecycle Management The category addresses incorporation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in characteristics of products and services provided or sold by the company. It includes, but is not limited to, managing the lifecycle impacts of products and services, such as those related to packaging, distribution, use-phase resource intensity, and other environmental and social externalities that may occur during their use-phase or at the end of life. The category captures a company’s ability to address customer and societal demand for more sustainable products and services as well as to meet evolving environmental and social regulation. It does not address direct environmental or social impacts of the company’s operations nor does it address health and safety risks to consumers from product use, which are covered in other categories.
- Business Model Resilience
- Supply Chain Management
- Materials Sourcing & Efficiency
- Physical Impacts of Climate Change The category addresses the company’s ability to manage risks and opportunities associated with direct exposure of its owned or controlled assets and operations to actual or potential physical impacts of climate change. It captures environmental and social issues that may arise from operational disruptions due to physical impacts of climate change. It further captures socio-economic issues resulting from companies failing to incorporate climate change consideration in products and services sold, such as insurance policies and mortgages. The category relates to the company's ability to adapt to increased frequency and severity of extreme weather, shifting climate, sea level risk, and other expected physical impacts of climate change. Management may involve enhancing resiliency of physical assets and/or surrounding infrastructure as well as incorporation of climate change-related considerations into key business activities (e.g., mortgage and insurance underwriting, planning and development of real estate projects).
Leadership & Governance
- Business Ethics
- Competitive Behavior
- Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment
- Critical Incident Risk Management
- Systemic Risk Management The category addresses the company’s contributions to or management of systemic risks resulting from large-scale weakening or collapse of systems upon which the economy and society depend. This includes financial systems, natural resource systems, and technological systems. It addresses the mechanisms a company has in place to reduce its contributions to systemic risks and to improve safeguards that may mitigate the impacts of systemic failure. For financial institutions, the category also captures the company’s ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic stress and meet stricter regulatory requirements related to the complexity and interconnectedness of companies in the industry.
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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Selling Practices & Product Labeling
Transparent Information & Fair Advice for Customers
Insurance products play an important societal role in alleviating the impact of unexpected economic shocks, allowing policyholders to minimize the financial impact of events such as illnesses, accidents, and deaths. However, the risks of unclear insurance policies, ambiguous product terms, and potentially misleading sales tactics can erode brand reputation, lead to legal disputes, and reduce the number of services and products offered. This may be especially true if regulators deem certain policies overly complex and unsuitable for customers. Moreover, insurance companies compete on the basis of financial strength, price, brand reputation, services offered, and customer relationships. Customer dissatisfaction may reduce insurance usage, potentially leading to extremely negative financial outcomes for individuals and families, such as personal bankruptcies. As financial regulators continue to emphasize consumer protection and accountability, companies that maintain transparent policy terms and direct customers toward the products best suited to them will be better positioned to maintain their brand reputation, avoid regulatory scrutiny, and protect shareholder value. Failure to inform customers about products in a clear and transparent manner may result in higher number of complaints filed against companies, customer churn, and in some instances, regulatory fines and settlements.
Product Design & Lifecycle Management
Incorporation of Environmental, Social, and Governance Factors in Investment Management
Insurance companies are responsible for investing capital to ensure the preservation of premium revenues equivalent to expected policy claim payouts and must be able to maintain this asset-liability parity over the long term. As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors have increasingly been shown to have a material impact on the performance of corporations and other assets, there is an increasing need for insurance companies to incorporate these factors into the management of their investments. Failure to address these issues could lead to diminished risk-adjusted returns of their portfolios and limit a company‘s ability to issue claim payments. Companies should therefore enhance disclosure on how ESG factors, including climate change and natural resource constraints, are incorporated into the investment of policy premiums and affect the portfolio risk.
Policies Designed to Incentivize Responsible Behavior
Advances in technology and the development of new policy products have allowed insurance companies to limit claim payments while encouraging responsible behavior. The industry is subsequently in a unique position to generate positive social and environmental externalities. Insurance companies have the ability to incentivize healthy lifestyles and safe behavior as well as the development of sustainability-related projects and technologies such as those focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture. As the renewable energy industry continues to grow, insurance companies may seek related growth opportunities by underwriting insurance in this area. Additionally, such policy clauses that provide incentives through incorporation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors can be used as tools to mitigate risk in the overall underwriting portfolio, which can reduce insurance payouts over the long term. Therefore, disclosure on premiums written related to energy efficiency and low carbon technology as well as discussion of how companies incentivize health, safety, and/or environmentally responsible actions or behaviors would allow investors to assess how insurance companies manage their performance on this topic.
Physical Impacts of Climate Change
Environmental Risk Exposure
Catastrophe losses associated with extreme weather events will continue to have a material, adverse impact on the Insurance industry. The extent of this impact is likely to evolve as climate change increases the frequency and severity of both modeled and non-modeled natural catastrophes, including hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Failure to appropriately understand environmental risks and price them into the underwritten insurance products may result in higher than expected claims on policies. Subsequently, insurance companies that incorporate climate change considerations into their underwriting process for individual contracts as well as the management of firm-level risks and capital adequacy will be better positioned to protect shareholder value. Enhanced disclosure of a company’s approach to incorporating these factors, in addition to quantitative data such as the probable maximum loss and total losses attributable to insurance payouts, will provide investors with the information necessary to assess current and future performance on this issue.
Systemic Risk Management
Systemic Risk Management
Insurance companies have the potential to pose, amplify, or transmit a threat to the financial system. The size, interconnectedness, and complexity of insurance companies are factors that highlight exposure to systemic risk for companies in the industry. Insurance companies that engage in non-traditional or non-insurance activities have been identified by regulators as being more vulnerable to financial market developments and subsequently more likely to amplify or contribute to systemic risk. As a result, insurance companies face the potential of being designated as Systemically Important Financial Institutions. Such firms are subject to stricter prudential regulatory standards and oversight by the central banking systems in various jurisdictions. Specifically, these insurance companies will likely face limitations relating to risk-based capital, leverage, liquidity, and credit exposure. In addition, insurance companies will be required to maintain a plan for rapid and orderly dissolution in the event of financial distress. Regulatory compliance can be very costly, while the failure to meet qualitative and quantitative regulatory performance thresholds could lead to substantial penalties. To demonstrate how these risks are being managed, insurance companies should enhance their disclosures of key aspects of systemic risk management and their ability to meet stricter regulatory requirements.
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