The Standard-Setting Process
The SASB follows a multi-year cycle—typically three years—for its standard-setting process, as illustrated in the diagram below. This involves systematic, independent evaluation of evidence-based research, balanced stakeholder consultation, Technical Agenda-setting, proposed updates, public comment, and ratification—all of which are subject to independent oversight and public transparency. Additional information about the SASB’s due process is available in the Rules of Procedure.
Where SASB is in the current cycle
The SASB is now in the final phase of the current cycle—Updates to Standards. As we review and analyze all the feedback from our most recent public comment period, we will be following a very specific process and set of steps leading up to codification of the standards. We’ve outlined these steps below.
The SASB is also working to finalize its Research Agenda, which outlines items requiring further analysis in the next cycle. This analysis will be performed after codification of standards in the current cycle, which is expected to happen mid-2018.
This is a list of general priority areas and broad topics being considered for research, and guides the medium- to long-term efforts of the SASB staff.
SASB staff look to the Research Agenda when considering adding items to the Technical Agenda, which consist of specific recommended changes to the standards that are being considered (see below). Research Agenda items may include topics or issues that:
- are technically complex and require additional stakeholder outreach or research before being added to a subsequent Technical Agenda.
- may represent emerging or evolving issues that require more time to address effectively.
- reflect research needs outside the scope of the regular multi-year standard setting cycle, including those of a theoretical or conceptual nature
This is simply a formal list of items that are under active consideration to be added to the standards. These items often come from the Research Agenda and draw on the SASB staff’s independent research and stakeholder consultation efforts, as well as public feedback via the SASB website.
The SASB staff recommends agenda items to the SASB, detailing the standards, topics, and/or metrics recommended for review, rationale, objectives, and any supporting evidence or feedback. The SASB reviews and may approve or modify the Technical Agenda through a vote. The SASB will adopt items for its Technical Agenda at regular intervals. The Technical Agenda will be published, and the public may provide feedback on the agenda on an ongoing basis.
The SASB gives priority to items that would improve the quality of the standard, including the materiality, cost-effectiveness, and/or decision-usefulness of the information the standard is designed to yield. Such proposals typically arise from:
- Stakeholder feedback on existing standards
- Regulatory or scientific advancement
- Identification and rationalization of cross-cutting topics that affect multiple industries or sectors
Read more about SASB’s 2017 Technical Agenda.
From August 2012 to April 2016, the SASB developed provisional sustainability accounting standards for all 79 Sustainable Industry Classification System (SICS™) industries. Having completed its provisional standards development, the SASB turned its attention to updating the standards for codification, which will officially establish the first authoritative set of sustainability accounting standards for use in the capital markets. Codification of the standards is expected to occur in mid-2018, after which the SASB will begin its ongoing three-year cycle of standards maintenance.
To gather feedback from the broadest base of stakeholders, the SASB issues Exposure Drafts of all its standards, proposed updates, and other authoritative releases for the purpose of soliciting input from stakeholders. Exposure Drafts are subject to a public comment period, typically 90 days (but no less than 60 days), which may be shortened or lengthened depending on the circumstances.
Through open, transparent public comment periods announced on the SASB website, any interested or affected party may provide comment and input regarding topics included in the standards or proposed updates, such as:
- Is this topic reasonably likely to constitute material information for companies in the industry?
- Will the proposed update improve the standard’s ability to achieve one or more of the SASB’s core objectives (materiality, decision-usefulness, and/or cost-effectiveness)?
In addition to evidence-based research, the SASB standards are shaped in large part by market feedback received through both formal and informal mechanisms. Among the SASB’s formal outreach programs, stakeholder consultation refers to a systematic process for eliciting deep industry expertise to inform how its Technical and Research agendas approach existing standards, emerging issues, implementation considerations, and other relevant factors. The SASB engages in deep, focused consultation with a variety of market participants, with an emphasis on key issuers and investors.
The SASB actively solicits input and carefully weighs all stakeholder perspectives, which helps the SASB better meet its core objectives of delivering material, decision-useful, cost-effective disclosures to the users and providers of financial capital.
In 2018, the SASB will establish and appoint members to 11 standing Sector Advisory Groups—one per SICS sector—to support the SASB and its staff in producing cost-effective standards that yield material, decision-useful information. Committees will comprise 10 to 15 members each, including a minimum of at least one member per industry. Members will represent their industry views on emerging topics, implementation of the standards, and raise items for consideration on the Technical or Research agendas of the SASB.
The SASB’s work is informed by an Investor Advisory Group (IAG), which comprises 28 leading asset owners and managers with more than $20 trillion in assets. The IAG is committed to improving the quality and comparability of sustainability-related disclosure. These investors work with the SASB, in part, to help ensure that the standards facilitate disclosure that is decision-useful for portfolio management, fundamental analysis, and corporate engagement efforts.
Strategic Priorities 2018
The SASB Standards Board has set the following strategic priorities for 2018, which will guide our strategy, approach and activities as we codify the standards this year.
1. Strengthen the standards
The SASB must maintain the highest possible quality in terms of both process and outcomes. It must promote integrity, transparency, inclusiveness, and independence in its approach to ensure the delivery of world-class sustainability accounting standards. To improve the quality and rigor of the standards—and to ensure that quality remains high—the SASB will endeavor to strengthen the research underpinning the standards and the analytics capabilities of its staff and other contributors, including thorough recruiting and development efforts focused on enhancing quantitative capabilities, industry expertise, and market research
2. Be more responsive to stakeholders
Although evidence-based research provides a foundation for the SASB’s standard-setting process, its outcomes are shaped in large part by feedback from participants in the capital markets—primarily corporate issuers and mainstream investors. By providing ongoing and meaningful opportunities for communication and input, the SASB leverages the expertise of its stakeholders and facilitates a collaborative approach to establishing a market standard that more effectively responds to the needs of market participants.By establishing both formal and informal programs and processes to better engage with market participants (e.g., sector advisory groups) and address their needs (e.g., cost-benefit analyses), the SASB can better meet its core objectives of delivering material, decision-useful, cost-effective disclosures to the users and providers of financial capital.
3. Better communicate the value of the standards
Since its establishment in 2011, the SASB and its staff have been intensely focused on the technical aspects of developing provisional sustainability accounting standards for 79 industries, and performing analytical research and detailed vetting with industry experts. As the organization shifts to long-range standards maintenance, it will endeavor to place more focus on effectively communicating the utility of the standards.Whether they are corporate professionals, investors, or other market intermediaries, practitioners will be able to more effectively integrate the SASB standards into their day-to-day workflows and broader strategic planning with the help of tools and other resources that clearly communicate the value of the standards and keep them abreast of the SASB’s ongoing efforts.
Standards Board Meetings
All Board meetings are held at the Center for Professional Accounting Practices (CPAP) at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business in New York City. Note that the last day of each meeting will be open to the public.
March 8-9 – Review of Public Comments (public session on March 9)
July 10-12 – (public sessions on July 11)
October 9-11 – Research Agenda / Consultation Target Review (public sessions on October 10 & 11)
2019 (dates tentative)
January 23-25 – Consultation Objectives, Target list
April 24-26 – Update on Consultation Efforts
July 30 – Aug. 1 – Initial Technical Agenda Review
November 27-29 – Guidance for Technical Agenda Finalization
2020 (dates tentative)
January 22-24 – Initial Basis for Conclusion proposals
April 22-24 – Review of Basis for Conclusions
July 29-31– Exposure Draft Review
Dec 2-4 – Approval of Exposure Drafts for Public Comment Release
Previous Board Meeting Minutes and Documents
SASB Public Comment Summaries
The SASB received 1,596 global and sector-specific comments, which covered 133 of the 248 proposed changes and other components of the Exposure Drafts. Comments were made on 66 of the 77 SASB industry standards. The SASB staff has reviewed and summarized these comments for consideration by the Standards Board, as well as to provide transparency and public insight into the extent and nature of the comments. The public comment summaries provide a consolidated view of comments received from stakeholders during the comment period, including a general characterization of comments received, a high-level description of overarching comments, and a consolidated summary of comments received for all topics in the Exposure Drafts for each industry.
SASB Exposure Draft of the Standards
In October 2017, SASB published Exposure Drafts of the standards (containing proposed updates to the provisional standards, as described in the 2017 Technical Agenda) for 79 industries in 11 major sectors within the Sustainability Industry Classification System. From October 2 to January 31, 2017, SASB invited feedback as to whether topics included in the standards or updates to the standards are likely to constitute material information, whether metrics fulfill the SASB’s criteria for metric selection, and whether the standards or updates to the standards are technically accurate and constitute a basis for “suitable criteria” for data verification. The Exposure Drafts are accompanied with associated Basis for Conclusion documents, which provide the rationale and supporting evidence for the proposed changes. This process will culminate in codification of the standards in 2018.
SASB Technical Agenda
The 2017 Technical Agenda comprises 248 items across 11 sectors that were reviewed by the Standards Board for possible changes to the provisional phase standards prior to codification. The approved items include those for which significant supporting evidence or market feedback was received, indicating that the change would improve the quality of the standard, including the materiality, cost-effectiveness, and/or decision-usefulness. Specifically, the need for changes arose from: 1) stakeholder feedback on the provisional standards; 2) regulatory or scientific advancement; and/or 3) identification and rationalization of cross-cutting topics that affect multiple industries or sectors.
The Technical Agenda items were prioritized from market feedback obtained during SASB’s stakeholder engagement process. In a recent six-month consultation period, 141 companies (along with 19 industry associations, representing hundreds of companies) and 38 institutional investors (who consulted on 271 industries) provided feedback on the provisional standards. To develop the provisional standards from 2012 through 2015, SASB convened industry working groups with 2,800 experts, affiliated with $23.4 trillion in assets under management and more than $11 trillion market capitalization.
For more information, see the FAQ.
SASB Chairman’s Report
The Chairman provides an update several times a year, outlining the activities of the SASB. Sign up to receive the report by email.