ESG Reporting Standards: a comprehensive guide for organizations

White Paper - Digital Transformation


Find the PDF version of this White Paper below.

Gregoire Frank

Mayank Kumar

Kaushik Narayanan

Elisa Lasry

Andres Antonioli


 

Introduction


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.


ESG Reporting


1. Identification

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.


2. Prioritization

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.


3. Validation

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.


4. Review

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.

Solution


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.


Environmental


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

  • Energy consumption within the organization

  • Energy consumption outside of the organization

  • Energy intensity

  • Reduction of energy consumption

  • Reductions in energy requirements of products and services


Water

  • Total water withdrawal by source

  • Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water

  • Percentage and total volume of water recycled and reused


Biodiversity

  • 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


Emissions

  • 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


Compliance

  • Monetary value of significant fines and total number of non-monetary sanctions for noncompliance with environmental laws and regulations


Transport

  • Significant environmental impacts of transporting products and other goods and materials for the organization’s operations, and transporting members of the workforce


Overall

  • 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



Social


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

  • Employment

  • Labor/Management Relations

  • Occupational Health and Safety

  • Training and Education

  • Diversity and Equal Opportunity

  • Equal Remuneration for Women and Men

  • Supplier Assessment for Labor Practices

  • Grievance Mechanisms


Human rights

  • Investment

  • Non-discrimination

  • Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining

  • Child Labor

  • Forced or Compulsory Labor

  • Security Practices

  • Indigenous Rights Assessment

  • Supplier Human Rights Assessment

  • Human Rights Grievance Mechanisms


Society

  • Local Communities

  • Anti-corruption

  • Public Policy

  • Anti-competitive Behavior

  • Compliance

  • Supplier Assessment for Impacts on Society

  • Grievance Mechanisms for Impacts on Society


Product Responsibility

  • Customer Health and Safety

  • Product and Service Labeling

  • Marketing Communications

  • Customer Privacy

  • Compliance



Governance


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


Conclusion


ESG factors have become crucial for companies to enhance their reputation and attract responsible investors, but also employees and customers alike. However, the lack of a shared standard has made it difficult for investors to compare and evaluate ESG compliant companies, and for companies to know which standards to use and factors to include. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, does not require corporate disclosure of material ESG data in any form. This lack of guidance leads toward a “lack of coherence in ESG disclosures by companies” as stated by Sylvain Guyoton, senior vice president for research at Paris-based sustainability ratings company EcoVadis. The matrices of the previous section cover all of the most important criteria from the biggest standards in use today. They can be adapted to a company’s specific needs and industry, thus easing and speeding up the ESG reporting process. This approach to reporting will enable companies to identify gaps in their practices, and to more easily file ESG compliant reports while saving significant time and resources. This methodology contributes to bringing greater standardization to organizations, making them more attractive to investors and customers, giving them a competitive advantage and making them more future-proof.


References

- see report in pdf


WP ESG Reporting Standards
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