The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a nonprofit organization that provides sustainability accounting standards for publicly listed U.S. corporations, released provisional standards for industries in the technology and communications sector.
SASB standards, accredited to be set by the American National Standards Institute, help corporations comply with existing regulation, Regulation S-K, to disclose all material issues in the Form 10-K.
The provisional standards address the environmental, social and governance issues likely to be material for companies in six industries in the technology and communications sector: electronic manufacturing services and original design manufacturing; hardware; internet media and services; semiconductors; software and IT services; and telecommunications. They address issues including waste and water management in manufacturing, data privacy and freedom of expression, and supply chain management and materials sourcing.
SASB standards identify the minimum set of sustainability issues for each industry—the average number of issues in each technology and communications standard is between five and six, with 78 percent of the suggested accounting metrics quantitative.
“Technology & Communications is a unique sector in that it’s evolving so quickly,” stated SASB CEO Jean Rogers. “Traditional business models and governance structures are being disrupted and companies are innovating to stay relevant. Within this innovation, companies have the potential to impact society in profound ways. SASB standards help investors understand and compare the material sustainability risks and opportunities that companies face in this quickly changing field.”
The development process for SASB’s standards includes Bloomberg data-supported research, multi-stakeholder industry working groups, a public comment period, and review by an independent standards council. The working groups, which included 215 registrants, represented publicly traded companies with more than $1.9 trillion market capital and investment firms with more than $2.3 trillion in assets under management.
SASB’s standards are considered provisional for one year after the issuance date, with SASB welcoming feedback during that phase.
"At Symantec one of our objectives is to more fully integrate corporate responsibility/sustainability efforts because they support and further the company's business purpose,” stated Cecily Joseph, vice president of corporate responsibility at software company Symantec. “To achieve this, we know it is important to keep investors apprised of this information, which they increasingly see as material. SASB's standards—which are developed with significant company and investor input—are a resource for this effort.”
The full schedule of SASB’s standards development process, which will be for 80-plus industries in 10 sectors through the beginning of 2016, is available here.