Sustainability and CSR professionals are already familiar with sustainability standards, which help an organisation to prepare its annual report. These standards aim to create a common language for reporting the environmental and social impacts of an organisation. This post details the main sustainability standards used to report businesses’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.
What is a sustainability standard?
A sustainability standard helps businesses and organisations to report their commitment to sustainable development in economic, social, labour and environmental terms, responding to the different indicators. These indicators measure performance and enable a business to evaluate current objectives, as well as to set future ones, all linked to corporate strategy.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the main standard for the preparation of sustainable reports in the European Union. They are a catalyst for change, helping organisations to be transparent and to take responsibility for their environmental impact to drive a sustainable future. They were first required in 1997 in Boston, derived from the need to increase the responsibility of businesses to manage the impacts caused by the environmental catastrophe of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker.
In 2000, the first standard for the preparation of sustainability reports was published, the GRI 1 Guide, with four different versions until the GRI 4 in 2013. Three years later, in 2016, the GRI launched new standards with interrelated modules on economic, environmental and social matters (36 in total) which organisations have used to report their activity since 2018. With this, there exist universal standards: GRI 101: Foundation, GRI 102: General Disclosures, and GRI 103: Management Approach.
As a reference standard, the GRI seeks integration with others. Therefore, in 2018 it published a guide together with the UN Global Compact to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into reporting. The GRI does not create unnecessary work: it allows businesses to report only on what is relevant to them.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is the framework with a big presence in the USA and which counts 77 sustainability standards for different industries. Its main objective is to help businesses disclose the financial implications of sustainable management.
The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the SASB announced their merger last June, which led to the creation of the Value Reporting Foundation. This foundation was created to help businesses manage their impacts on society and to help investors understand how to best manage their ESG risks, through the promotion of the integrated reporting framework and the SASB standards.
The SASB is also committed to linking its standard with that of the GRI. Here are five recommendations.
The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was created by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in 2017 to encourage greater climate-related disclosure. The TCFD financial disclosure recommendations are applicable to all types of organisation, no matter their sector, and in all countries. The recommendations are structured around four main pillars: governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets.
Currently, the TCFD counts more than 2,300 companies from 88 countries which report their climate impact according to the disclosure recommendations.
In the last G20 summit, the FSB urged the major world economies to further advance the TCFD model with the aim of creating a standard for the publishing of climate change-related impacts.
In the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, 120 companies supported the development of common metrics for sustainable value creation. They used the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics to integrate the ESG criteria into their reporting for investors and other stakeholders, linking them each time to the SDGs.
This standard is intended to catalyse the alignment, simplification and standardisation of the non-financial reporting ecosystem.
The GRI, SASB, TCFD and IBC metrics seek to help companies to manage and report their ESG impacts and drive their sustainable development commitments. Through technology, such as APlanet’s, sustainability management is simplified and it is easier for organisations to integrate this management into their business.
The demand for ESG information will continue to grow. Let’s take advantage of this momentum for sustainability by making it the foundation of business strategy in order to better equip organisations to tackle global challenges.
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