A new nonprofit organization plans to establish industry-specific accounting standards for corporate sustainability reporting.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has been founded to fill what it sees as a current void in corporate reporting by quantifying the value of corporate non-financial information. The SASB said Thursday that it intends to develop and publicly distribute industry-specific sustainability accounting standards for the benefit of companies, investors and the public.
Other groups have been working toward similar goals. The London-based International Integrated Reporting Council has been developing sustainability reporting and on Thursday launched the Integrated Reporting Emerging Practice Examples Database in conjunction with the specialist corporate reporting consultancy, Black Sun plc. The database, which contains reporting examples from businesses around the world, is an online resource that captures innovation to help organizations on their journey toward integrated reporting.
Another group, known as the Global Reporting Initiative, has been developing and disseminating sustainability reporting guidelines. Prince Charles has also organized the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, in which the American Institute of CPAs has been involved.
The San Francisco-based SASB has been formed to continue the evolution of U.S. accounting standards by incorporating sustainability metrics into standardized reporting, providing investors more reliable information. It is positioning itself as a complement to the accounting standards-setting work done by the Financial Accounting Standards Board.
“SASB will be the U.S. voice for material non-financial issues and how to recognize and account for them as part of corporate reporting,” said SASB executive director Dr. Jean Rogers in a statement. “The standards we develop will promote sustainable value creation and ultimately enhance the competitiveness of all U.S. industries on the most pressing challenges facing industry and society today.”
As its first initiative, SASB is producing a “Materiality Map” that weights the priority of sustainability issues by industry across 10 sectors, which is useful for asset allocation strategies and understanding exposure to certain kinds of environmental, social and governance risk. For issues that are considered to be the most material in each industry through an evidence-based approach, the SASB will develop key performance indicators unique to each of 89 industries suitable for disclosure in the Form 10-K, thereby facilitating comparable corporate reporting.
Bloomberg, an early supporter of SASB, will also collaborate in developing the Materiality Map.
“Good information is essential for creating trust in the capital markets. We have financial fundamentals - now we need sustainability fundamentals,” said Bloomberg CEO Dan Doctoroff in a statement. “SASB will create the standards that will enable investors to have a more complete view of risks and opportunities in a form that can be compared and benchmarked and have valuable analytics built on them.”
“The impact that financial reporting standards have had on the capital markets is obviously profound. We wouldn’t have the capital markets that we have today in terms of scope, depth and liquidity if investors didn’t have credible information for financial reporting,” said Harvard Business School professor Robert Eccles, founding chairman of SASB. “Transparency is equally important for non-financial reporting, and that is at the core of SASB’s mission.”
The SASB has attracted support from a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Since 1973, the Financial Accounting Standards Board has developed and improved standards for financial accounting and reporting,” said former SEC Commissioner Aulana Peters. “Now, nearly 40 years later, I am delighted to see SASB being established, which will complement FASB’s work by specifying the language and accounting mechanisms for material nonfinancial impacts.”
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