ESG Reporting Standards: a comprehensive guide for organizations
White Paper - Digital Transformation
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Reports on responsible practices were first developed in the 1990s, when companies were asked to provide information on their impact of nature and communities. They experienced a significant evolution in 2000 when the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) issued its sustainability-reporting guideline to the end of understanding how companies face issues on climate change, human rights and corruption.
Today there is a huge number of frameworks and standards companies can use to disclose information on their responsible values, such as the B Corporation, ISO, MSCI, and several others. ESG factors have increased in importance as non-financial factors able to provide a correlation with financial performances of companies. Moreover, they are used to attract socially conscious investors as well as to prove that executives run business with responsible issues in mind.
Three areas are included under these factors. With the first one, environment, included are all the companies’ environmental risks and how companies address them, as well as companies’ energy use, waste, pollution, natural resource conservation, and treatment of animals. The social category observes how organizations manage relationships with stakeholders as suppliers, employees, and external communities who receive financial or volunteer contributions. Finally, under governance, it is analyzed the management incentives and structure, transparency of accounting, conflicts of interest, political contributions, presence of illegal practices, diversification, engagement and independence of the board.
Utility of ESG
Organizations use ESG factors to enhance their reputation and attract not only responsible investors, but also employees and customers. Moreover, there is clear evidence that companies that are able to identify and overcome sustainable issues relevant to business can, over time, improve their performances and, in certain cases, even those of entire industries. It also helps investors to thoroughly understand which companies to invest in. International trades, elaborated supply chains and diverse workforces around the world can directly affect global economies, and companies are continuously and growingly facing environmental concerns related to climate change, pollution and water scarcity, as well as social concerns including product safety and relationships with regulators and the communities in which they operate. In this context, ESG can directly impact a company’s competitive positioning. Moreover, by disclosing ESG metrics companies can prevent the externalization the costs related to environmental and social issues.
The attention of ESG is today more crucial than ever. As Morgan Stanley stated in a 2018 investment insight, ESG factors have already started affecting investor decision making significantly and companies that haven't adopted sustainability or ESG standards already would now need to do so in order to remain competitive in the financial market.
The first step of the process is to identify the important subjects that may be covered in the report. In this section, it i factors that can be important for reflecting the organization’s relevant performances in the wider context of sustainability (Principle of Sustainability) as well as the identification of its stakeholders and how their interests and expectations have been fulfilled (Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness) are considered. It is important to identify every element, internal and external, related to organizations’ activities, product, services and relationships. An example of a subject within the organization is anti-corruption, while an example outside the organisation is child labour.
The result of the first step must be assessed based on their priority on the basis of two principles. The first one being the principles of Materiality which takes into account the significant economic, environmental and social impacts of the topic. The second one, the Principles of Stakeholder Inclusiveness, considers the importance of stakeholders, their respective view and interests and how their perspective may influence the content on the report. From their perspective, new content may be included or removed from the report.
It applies the Principles of Completeness which encompasses the scope, the boundaries and time of the results. Firstly, the range of the subjects covered in the report; secondly, a focus on the impacts of the results both within and outside the organization and thirdly the completeness of the selected information with respect to the reporting period are analyzed. From then, an organization can define a list of Specific Standard Disclosures related to the aspects and boundaries found to be inserted in the report.
The last step happens after the report is published: the organization reviews its published report while preparing the next one. It considers not only the material of the previous reports but also stakeholder feedback. It applies the Principles of Stakeholder Inclusiveness and Principles of Sustainability Context to serve as checks regarding the presentation and evaluation of report content, as well as checks for the reporting process as a whole.
Problem Statement In order for a company to acquire an ESG label, it needs to file reports concerning the nature of its activities, often by filling out long checklists. What’s different about sustainability-focused investment is that companies’ sustainability disclosures do not need to conform to shared standards in the way their financial disclosures must. The proprietary nature of ESG rating systems leads to a lack of transparency, making it challenging for retail investors to identify the right funds.A McKinsey & Co report on Sustainability, Private Equity and Principal Investors Practices found that the scope and depth of the disclosures about how companies address opportunities and risks related to sustainability trends differ considerably as a result of the subjective choice in which standard to follow. In fact, investors would benefit from a greater standardization of sustainability reporting, by making it easier to compare companies and allocate funds more effectively.
In order to address this lack of standardization in ESG reporting, we have researched and compiled a checklist of essential data points required to comply with the most widely accepted standards, such as ISO and GRI.The checklist is divided in 3 parts and addresses the Environment, Social Responsibility and Governance. Our aim is to speed up and ease the ESG reporting process, by enabling companies to gather the right data, and to file high quality reports in accordance to recognized standards.
This section delves deep into the various environmental factors companies need to look into in order to adhere to the various ESG measurement and reporting standards. The below mentioned factors therefore represent a condensed version of the numerous factors that construct different ESG standards. Most of the information has been obtained from the GRI reporting standards considering its data intensity and the specificity of factors. Following these factors is the 14001 checklist that presents the data points companies couls use in order to evaluate next steps and actions.
Energy consumption within the organization
Energy consumption outside of the organization
Reduction of energy consumption
Reductions in energy requirements of products and services
Total water withdrawal by source
Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water
Percentage and total volume of water recycled and reused
Operational sites owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas
Description of significant impacts of activities, products, and services on biodiversity in protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas
Habitats protected or restored
Total number of IUCN Red List species and national conservation list species with habitats in areas affected by operations, by level of extinction risk
Direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Scope 1)
Energy indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Scope 2)
Other indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Scope 3)
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity
Reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Emissions of ozone-depleting substances (ODS)
NOX, SOX, and other significant air emissions
Effluents and Waste
- Total water discharge by quality and destination - Total weight of waste by type and disposal method - Total number and volume of significant spills - Weight of transported, imported, exported, or treated waste deemed hazardous under the terms of the basel and percentage of transported waste shipped internationally - Identity, size, protected status, and biodiversity value of water bodies and related habitats significantly - affected by the organization’s discharges of water and runoff
Products and Services
Extent of impact mitigation of environmental impacts of products and services
Percentage of products sold and their packaging materials that are reclaimed by category
Monetary value of significant fines and total number of non-monetary sanctions for noncompliance with environmental laws and regulations
Significant environmental impacts of transporting products and other goods and materials for the organization’s operations, and transporting members of the workforce
Total environmental protection expenditures and investments by type
Supplier Environmental Assessment
Percentage of new suppliers that were screened using environmental criteria
Significant actual and potential negative environmental impacts in the supply chain and actions taken
Environmental grievance Mechanisms
Number of grievances about environmental impacts filed, addressed, and resolved through formal grievance mechanisms
This section delves deep into the various social factors companies need to look into in order to adhere to the various ESG measurement and reporting standards. Following these factors is the 26000 checklist that presents the data points regarding 'Social' aspects companies could use in order to evaluate next steps and actions.
Labor Practices and decent Work
Occupational Health and Safety
Training and Education
Diversity and Equal Opportunity
Equal Remuneration for Women and Men
Supplier Assessment for Labor Practices
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
Forced or Compulsory Labor
Indigenous Rights Assessment
Supplier Human Rights Assessment
Human Rights Grievance Mechanisms
Supplier Assessment for Impacts on Society
Grievance Mechanisms for Impacts on Society
Customer Health and Safety
Product and Service Labeling
The governance factors tend to record the different aspects of senior management of the company and its practices. Due to the nature of the Governance aspects of ESG standards, the following checklist (in contrast to the environmental and social checklist provides guidelines for possible questions companies might receive and might need to answer, within the scope of governance aspects, in order to adhere to ESG requirements.
This report mentions three major KPIs that are the most overlapping across different reporting standards. There are other Governance KPIs as well varying from the reporting standards that are being referred to