PUBLIC COMPANIES: Disclosure of Environmental, Social, and Governance Factors and Options to Enhance Them, prepared by the Government Accountability Office (July 2020). This report confirms that investors want ESG-related information, and what companies currently provide is inconsistent and not always helpful.
As you may guess, I am not a fan of jargon, but law firm Latham & Watkins and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have co-produced an extensive Book of Jargon for ESG slang and terminology. Click here for the whole Book of Jargon series.
The building blocks: Connecting CDP [Carbon Disclosure Project] data with the CDSB [Climate Disclosure Standards Board] Framework to successfully fulfil the TCFD [Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures] Recommendations (May 2020). This one wins the award for most acronyms in a paper title, but may still contain useful information.
Corporate Governance: The Growing Importance of Human Capital Management, various authors (legal and consulting), April 2020. This report talks about what companies are doing and what they are disclosing.
Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation, by the World Economic Forum in consultation with the Big Four accounting firms (January 2020 consultation draft). As the title suggests, this paper seeks to address the lack of consistency in how companies measure and report on ESG matters by recommending core metrics and disclosure standards.
ESG Reporting Best Practices 2019, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Project for Growth, Opportunity & Innovation.
A Benchmark of Sustainability Communications in 2019 Proxy Statements and Addressing Key ESG Topics Effectively, both by Argyle. These reports give examples of recent disclosure on a variety of ESG-related topics.
Sustainability Reporting Frameworks: A Guide for CIOs (September 2019), by Rhonda Brauer and Glenn Davis for the Council of Institutional Investors Research and Education Fund. This report summarizes and compares four oft-used ESG reporting frameworks: the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Nasdaq ESG Reporting Guide 2.0 (May 2019). This document “aims to help both private and public companies navigate the evolving standards on ESG data disclosure.”
2019 Guide to Effective Proxies by DFin Solutions. Donnelley releases a comprehensive annual guide to proxies, with hundreds of examples. This is the section of their forthcoming new guide that focuses on ESG and human capital management disclosures.
2019 Research Report: An analysis of the sustainability reports of 1000 companies pursuant to the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive, by the Alliance for Corporate Transparency. Main conclusion: “…quality and comparability of companies’ sustainability reporting is not sufficient to understand their impacts, risks, or even their plans.”
The Corporate Reporting Dialogue is a joint effort among eight organizations that set reporting standards (Carbon Disclosure Project, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, Global Reporting Initiative, International Accounting Standards Board, International Integrated Reporting Council, International Organization for Standardization, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, and Financial Accounting Standards Board). Key documents right now are:
ESG Disclosure Handbook (April 2019) (with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development).
Corporate Reporting Landscape Map, which summarizes the various reporting initiatives and provides links to more information.
ISS Environmental & Social QualityScore: FAQs (December 2017).
The United Nations Global Compact Guide to Corporate Sustainability (December 2014) states that one of the five things that sustainable companies do is report on their progress.
UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework (focused on human rights).
GRI and United Nations Global Compact, Integrating the SDGs into Corporate Reporting: A Practical Guide (August 2018).
U.S. Government Accountability Office Report, Climate-Related Risks: SEC Has Taken Steps to Clarify Disclosure Requirements (February 2018).
Global Reporting Initiative. “GRI promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.”
Forging a path to integrated reporting (October 2016)
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. “SASB is working to increase the usefulness of information available to investors, and improve corporate performance on the environmental, social, and governance issues most likely to impact value.”
The Future of Sustainability Disclosure: What Remains Unchanged in an Environment of Regulatory Uncertainty? Keynote address by former SEC Commissioner Elisse B. Walter at the December 1, 2016, SASB Symposium.
Climate Disclosure Standards Board. “CDSB is an international consortium of business and environmental organizations committed to the integration of climate change-related information into mainstream corporate reporting.”
Communicating climate change in mainstream reports (March 2013)
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures: Status Report (June 2019). This report provides an overview of current disclosure practices as they relate to the Task Force’s recommendations.
SEC Interpretive Release, Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change, effective February 8, 2010.
This March 2019 speech by William Hinman, the SEC’s Director of Corporation Finance, says this release “remains a relevant and useful tool for companies when evaluating their disclosure obligations concerning climate change matters.”
Constructing ExxonMobil’s First Integrated Report: An Experiment (March 2018), by Robert G. Eccles and Michael P. Krzus.
International Integrated Reporting Council. The IIRC “is a global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard setters, the accounting profession and NGOs.” One goal is to blend ESG reporting with traditional financial reporting.
“Creating Value” series of reports (research, case studies, trends, and more)
The International Integrated Reporting Framework (December 2013)
Showcase of recognized integrated reports
Center for Political Accountability. “The Center for Political Accountability (CPA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that was created to bring transparency and accountability to corporate political spending.”
London Stock Exchange Group, Revealing the full picture: Your guide to ESG Reporting (February 2017).
EY Center for Board Matters, 2019 Proxy Season Preview (explaining that institutional investors want more information about board diversity, environmental and social issues, and company culture).
Sustainability Reporting Trends and Best Practices: The Best for 2018. By The Works Design Communications.
Sustainly is a consulting firm focused on sustainability communications. Here are some of their recent publications [free registration required to access documents]:
Global Goals Trend Briefing (2017).
The 6th Annual Social Media Sustainability Index (2016) (discussing how leading global companies communicate sustainability using online platforms and social media).
Investing for a Sustainable Future: Findings From the 2016 Sustainability Global Executive Study and Research Project, published by MIT Sloane School of Management (May 2016) [free registration required].
Corporate Citizenship (a consultancy), in association with S&P Dow Jones Indices, Getting on the right track: How to demonstrate the value of sustainable business to investors (2016) [free registration required]
Deloitte’s Sustainability group, which offers reporting, compliance, and assurance services, has produced several helpful reports:
Navigating the evolving sustainability disclosure landscape (September 2014)
From EY’s climate change and sustainability services:
ESG Reporting (August 2018)
The road to reliable nonfinancial reporting (May 2016)
The State of CSR Reporting and Communications 2016, by Ethical Corporation, identifying key trends and opportunities for reporting (free registration required).
The road ahead: The KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2017, published by KPMG International.
See Change: How Transparency Drives Performance, by SustainAbility (October 2014).
An in-depth study on sustainability transparency practices around the globe (June 2014), published by S&P Dow Jones Indices in cooperation with RobecoSAM.
From Principles for Responsible Investment:
Addressing Investor Needs in Business Reporting on the SDGs (with GRI and the UN Global Compact) (July 2018)
ESG monitoring, reporting and dialogue in private equity (with links to case studies) (June 2018)
Ceres, “a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges,” has produced several reports. [Free registration often required for downloads.]
Systems Rule: How Board Governance Can Drive Sustainability Performance (2018) (with kks advisors) [it is not obvious from the title, but the report covers several disclosure issues]
SEC Sustainability Disclosure Search Tool [if you want examples of how other companies discuss a particular sustainability issue, this is a good starting place]
Corporate and Integrated Reporting: A Functional Perspective, by Robert G. Eccles and George Serafeim (revised May 2018).
Directive 2014/95/EU of the European Parliament (October 22, 2014), requiring companies with more than 500 employees to report annually on “environmental, social and employee matters, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters.”
Corporate Sustainability and Disclosure, by Katayun I. Jaffari (March 2015).
5 Keys to Producing Successful Sustainability Reports, by Paul Leavoy, LNS Research (November 12, 2014).
The CEO water mandate: Corporate water disclosure guidelines (September 2014).
Baker & McKenzie Client Alert: What is the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and how does its work affect your company? (September 2014).
Resources on Sustainability Reporting. American Institute of CPAs.
Click here for guidance about other disclosure topics.