Sustainability accounting has become increasingly important in business and finance in recent years. As companies face growing pressure to address environmental and social issues, investors seek greater transparency and accountability on sustainability-related risks and opportunities. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is one organization working to help companies and investors meet these demands by providing industry-specific standards for sustainability accounting.
What is the SASB?
The SASB is a nonprofit organization founded in 2011 to develop and disseminate sustainability accounting standards that help public corporations disclose material, decision-useful information to investors. The organization aims to improve the transparency and comparability of sustainability information for investors by providing standardized metrics for companies to use when reporting on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance.
SASB’s standards cover 77 industries and are organized into five sectors:
- Non-Renewable Resources
- Renewable Resources & Alternative Energy
Within each sector, SASB has identified a set of sustainability topics that are material to the industry and specific metrics for each topic. For example, material topics in the Non-Renewable Resources sector include greenhouse gas emissions, water management, and safety and health.
How does SASB work?
SASB’s standard-setting process is grounded in an evidence-based approach that seeks to identify the ESG topics that are most financially material to a particular industry. The organization works with various stakeholders, including investors, companies, academics, and sustainability experts, to gather information on the sustainability issues that are most relevant to a given industry. SASB then conducts a materiality analysis to identify the sustainability topics most likely to impact a company’s financial performance significantly.
To ensure that its standards are market-informed, SASB also seeks feedback from industry experts and conducts research to identify trends and best practices. SASB’s standards are designed to be flexible and responsive to changes in industry practices and stakeholder needs. The organization is committed to a transparent and collaborative standard-setting process guided by its rules of procedure, which outline the criteria and principles for developing and maintaining its standards.
Who uses SASB standards?
SASB standards are used by various stakeholders, including companies, investors, and other organizations. Here are some examples of early adopters of SASB standards:
- Danone: In 2016, Danone became the first company to use SASB standards in its Integrated Report. Since then, the company has continued to use SASB standards to report on its sustainability performance.
- Ford: In 2018, Ford began using SASB standards to report on its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. The company’s sustainability report now includes disclosures based on SASB standards for the automotive industry.
- Duke Energy: Duke Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the United States, uses SASB standards to report on its ESG performance. The company’s sustainability report includes disclosures based on SASB standards for the electric power industry.
Investors are also using SASB standards to inform their investment decisions. Here are some examples of asset managers and owners using SASB standards:
- BlackRock: In 2018, BlackRock began using SASB standards to evaluate companies’ ESG performance. The asset manager uses SASB standards for its investment process across all active equity and bond funds.
- CalPERS: The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), one of the largest pension funds in the world, has integrated SASB standards into its investment decision-making process. The fund uses SASB standards to identify material ESG risks and opportunities in its portfolio.
- TIAA: TIAA, a leading provider of retirement and investment solutions, uses SASB standards to evaluate the sustainability performance of companies in its investment portfolios. The company has integrated SASB standards into its investment due diligence process.
SASB also works with other organizations through licensing and partnership agreements to promote the adoption of its standards. For example, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has licensed SASB standards in its Integrated Reporting Framework. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board Foundation (SASB-F) has partnered with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to promote alignment between the two organizations’ standards.
Alignment with other sustainability reporting frameworks
SASB is committed to promoting alignment and harmonization between its standards and other sustainability reporting frameworks. Here are some examples of SASB’s collaborations with other organizations:
- Collaboration with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): In 2019, SASB began collaborating with CDSB to create an effective solution for TCFD implementation by global organizations across all industries. Organizations can use the TCFD Implementation Guide and SASB’s and CDSB’s tools to provide more effective climate-related disclosures comparable within industries and have clear links to material financial impacts. The Corporate Reporting Dialogue, an initiative bringing together the major ESG standard setters and framework providers globally, including SASB, has also released a report showing high levels of alignment between the frameworks based on the TCFD recommendations.
- Relationship with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): SASB’s approach differs from that of the GRI, but the organizations have stated that their standards complement one another. The GRI Standards support broad and comprehensive disclosures to understand the organization’s impacts on the economy, environment, and society. SASB standards offer an industry-focused perspective on a subset of financial material issues. Many companies like ArcelorMittal, Diageo, and Nike report with SASB and GRI Standards.
SASB recognizes the importance of educating current and future business leaders about sustainability accounting. To help professionals develop their understanding of the connections between sustainability information and financial performance, SASB offers a Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) credential. This program is designed for those who want to improve their knowledge of sustainable accounting practices, understand the SASB Standards, and effectively communicate sustainability-related risks and opportunities to key stakeholders.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is a non-profit organization that aims to create standardized sustainability accounting metrics to enable businesses to disclose sustainability-related risks and opportunities. SASB’s market-informed approach to standard-setting, collaboration with other sustainability reporting organizations, and educational efforts have made it a valuable resource for companies, investors, and stakeholders who want to incorporate sustainability into their decision-making processes. As sustainability continues to play a critical role in modern business and finance, organizations must stay updated with emerging standards and practices.
If you need help implementing SASB standards or other sustainability reporting frameworks, contact Veritrove for assistance.