The world of ESG reporting is complex, to say the least. In fact, Ernst & Young estimates there are over 600 ESG frameworks and standards around the world. Some are specific to certain industries or countries. Others are broadly applicable to many operations, but haven’t found a mainstream foothold.
In the last year, the US government has made tangible steps toward enacting ESG-specific regulatory changes. While ESG reporting has been voluntary in the past, these legislative changes mean certain industry sectors will be required to report going forward, while others will continue to do so to meet the requirements of customers and investors.
What are ESG Reporting Frameworks?
One of the key considerations in ESG reporting is being able to provide meaningful data that can be compared to the numbers from other companies within an industry or investment portfolio. But being able to compare apples to apples means starting from the same tree or, in this case, the same ESG reporting framework.
These frameworks harmonize reporting. Without them, businesses can pick and choose the metrics that show them in the best light, and investors aren’t able to identify the organizations making strides towards achieving their sustainability goals and reducing their negative impact on the environment and community.
The terms ESG reporting standards and ESG reporting frameworks are often used interchangeably, and where ESG reporting remains voluntary, this isn’t always a problem. But where organizations need to meet specific compliance requirements, it’s important they understand which are the approved and relevant ESG reporting frameworks and organizations for their operations.
What are the Different ESG Reporting Frameworks Available?
It can often feel like keeping up to date on ESG reporting frameworks is a moving target. While there may be hundreds of frameworks to choose from, as more and more companies look to implement ESG programs, the reporting organizations are consolidating and establishing strategic partnerships so that reportable data can be harmonized.
Sometimes though, it can be hard to keep up. In the last few years alone, major frameworks and groups have consolidated. The SASB and IIRC partnered to form the VRF, which then announced in November 2021 they’d consolidated with the CDSB to form the ISSB. Then, on March 24, 2022, the IFRS Foundation, home to the ISSB, and GRI announced a partnership to align their frameworks. That alphabet soup is truly turning into a rich and hearty stew, and we’re only through the first quarter of 2022.
Below is an introduction to some of the available ESG reporting frameworks. They’re meant to help you understand how these frameworks are typically set up and which industries they apply to. But before you start building your ESG program, be sure to look for the most up-to-date news and frameworks that apply to you.
The GRI framework is probably the most well-known of the ESG reporting standards. Companies who already have an existing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program in place may have followed GRI’s requirements to build it. In fact, 73% of the world’s 250 largest companies follow GRI for their ESG reporting.
The GRI standard in fact includes three sets of standards within itself. These are:
- Universal – A set of three standards that apply to every reporting organization. The universal standards cover the basics of the company’s operational activities.
- Topic-specific – These are divided into three series based on material topics – 200 (Economic topics), 300 (Environmental topics), and 400 (Social topics).
- Sector Standards – Four priority groups that make up a sector’s most significant impact areas: Priority Group 1 (basic materials and needs), Priority Group 2 (industrial), Priority Group 3 (transport, infrastructure, and tourism), and Priority Group 4 (other services and light manufacturing)
The ISSB is a new kid on the ESG reporting framework block but, as mentioned above, is actually a consolidation of the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) and the Climate Disclosure Standards Boards. The ISSB was established to specifically meet the sustainability information needs of capital markets.
The ISSB is run by the IFRS Foundation, a leader in global accounting disclosure frameworks. The introduction of the ISSB and its new partnership with GRI will help harmonize ESG reporting with already accepted standards for financial reporting, giving investors the confidence to make informed risk-based decisions based on clearly-reported sustainability data.
Formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP is a global non-profit organization that runs disclosure systems for investors, companies, cities and states. Unlike other ESG reporting frameworks, CDP is primarily focused on areas of environmental sustainability, with reporting organizations disclosing on topics related to climate change, forests and water security.
In 2015, the CDP introduced a quality-reviewed GHG modeled emissions data set, which has been widely used for investment decision making and to assess carbon risk.
CDP also provides annual sustainability scoring, based on the depth of company reporting and their level of action year-over-year. Investors will refer to CDP’s annual A-List to help set investment priorities and identify sustainable partners.
Science Based Targets (SBTi)
SBTi is focused specifically on reducing carbon emissions in the private sector. The program not only helps companies quantify their carbon emissions, it also provides science-based methodologies for reducing emissions and reaching net-zero targets by 2050.
GRESB is an investor-led organization striving to provide validated ESG data to the business community. They collect, validate, score and benchmark ESG data from individual companies in order to help their member investors make informed decisions.
Much of GRESB’s data is focused on the real estate sector with annual benchmarks reported in:
- Real Estate
- Real Estate Development
- Infrastructure Funds
- Infrastructure Assets
Established in 2015 by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is an industry-led organization that develops climate-related financial disclosures.
The TCFD offers disclosure recommendations around four key areas including governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets. It also provides best practices for reporting.
Together, this helps companies communicate how climate-related issues are impacting – and will impact – their financial performance. It also helps investors identify climate-related risks and make better-informed investment decisions.
How to Get Started with Reporting Frameworks
The best time to start implementing an ESG reporting program is now, while the requirements for many industries are still voluntary. Your organization can take time figuring out how to compile the necessary information, complete the quantifications and accurately report your data in a way that’s meaningful and verifiable to corporate leadership, shareholders, investors and the community.
But staying on top of the changing framework landscape can be a full-time job on its own. Knowing which frameworks apply to your industry, what to do when your framework consolidates with others and how to use the methodology inside to accurately report on the progress of your ESG program is certainly time-consuming.
Starting on the right foot means finding partners who can streamline your data collection, and use verified methodologies to quantify emissions and document your progress in real time. FigBytes is the first platform that manages ESG data, reporting, strategy and stakeholder engagement for all your purpose-driven goals.
Choosing a partner like FigBytes means you’ll set your data up right the first time, and the platform will do most of the background work in terms of keeping abreast with evolving frameworks and making sure your methodologies stay up to date.
To find out more about how you can use FigBytes to meet your ESG reporting needs, speak with one of our experts today.