Back to Basics is a weekly feature that highlights important but possibly overlooked information that any EHS professional should know. This week, we look at ESG reporting frameworks.
When it comes to reporting on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, there are many options to consider. There are many different ESG disclosure frameworks to help companies figure out what they should report and what they’re measuring. Here’s a look at some of those frameworks.
Global Reporting Initiative Standards
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an independent, international organization that “helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts by providing them with the global common language to communicate those impacts,” according to the GRI website.
The GRI standards are designed to help any organization understand and report on its impacts on the economy, environment, and people. The standards are broken up into modules. The Universal Standards incorporate reporting on human rights and environmental due diligence. The new Sector Standards allow more consistent reporting on sector-specific impacts, and the Topic Standards list disclosures relevant to a particular topic.
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards help companies disclose relevant sustainability information to their investors. Available for 77 industries, the standards identify the sustainability-related risks and opportunities most likely to affect a company’s cash flows, access to finance and cost of capital over the short, medium, or long term. They also identify the disclosure topics and metrics that are most likely to be useful to investors.
As of August 2022, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) of the IFRS Foundation took over responsibility for the SASB standards.
Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures
The Financial Stability Board (FSB) created the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2015 to improve and increase reporting of climate-related financial information. The TCFD’s framework was designed to help companies and other organizations more effectively disclose climate-related risks and opportunities through their existing reporting processes.
In 2017, the TCFD released a recommendations report and since then, nearly 5,000 organizations have publicly declared their support for the recommendations, according to the TCFD. After releasing its 2023 status report last October, the TCFD disbanded. The FSB has asked the IFRS Foundation to take over monitoring the progress of companies’ climate-related disclosures.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, all United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity. The agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go along with strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth while also dealing with climate change and preserving the oceans and forests.
The SDGs are:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and well-being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice, and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
The CDP (originally known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) is a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states, and regions to manage their environmental impacts.
More than 5,100 North American companies disclosed through CDP on climate change, water security, and forests out of 23,000 globally, while 210 cities, states, and regions in North America disclosed environmental information through CDP out of more than 1,100 worldwide.
Climate Disclosure Standards Board
The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) is an international consortium of business and environmental non-governmental organizations that worked on advancing and aligning the global mainstream reporting model to equate natural capital with financial capital.
In January 2022, the CDSB was consolidated into the IFRS Foundation to support the work of the newly established ISSB.
The European Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive
European Union rules require large companies and listed companies to publish regular reports on the social and environmental risks they face, and how their activities impact people and the environment.
In January 2023, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) began, modernizing and strengthening the rules concerning the social and environmental information that companies must report. A broader set of large companies, as well as listed SMEs, now must report on sustainability.
The new rules will ensure that investors and other stakeholders have access to the information they need to assess the impact of companies on people and the environment and for investors to assess financial risks and opportunities arising from climate change and other sustainability issues. The first companies will have to apply the new rules for the first time in the 2024 financial year, for reports published in 2025.
Science Based Targets initiative
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling organizations to set science-based emissions reduction targets. The SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Science-based targets show companies and financial institutions how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change. More than 2,000 organizations worldwide are setting emissions reduction targets using the SBTi.