SASB and GRI respond to rising global demand for clarity in sustainability reporting

Jul 16, 2020

On Monday 13 July, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced a collaborative workplan to provide more clarity on how their two sets of standards can be used together for sustainability reporting by the end of 2020.

The announcement comes amid rising global demand for clarity in a sustainability disclosure landscape that can at times seem complicated. 

GRI and SASB provide compatible standards for sustainability reporting. Both have already been working together as part of the Corporate Reporting Dialogue, an initiative organised by the International Integrated Reporting Council that has been working to bring together the various standard-setters to promote greater consistency and comparability among the different sets of standards and frameworks for non-financial reporting. Both GRI and SASB believe that providing clarity on the application of their reporting standards, and helping others understand how to use the sustainability performance data they provide, is critical to meeting the needs of all stakeholders. 

SASB and GRI are designed to fulfil different purposes, and are based on different approaches to materiality:

  • SASB’s standards are industry-specific. They identify the subset of sustainability-related risks and opportunities most likely to affect a company’s financial condition, operating performance or risk profile.
  • The GRI Standards focus on the economic, environmental and social impacts of a company, and hence its contributions – positive or negative – towards sustainable development. Users of the GRI Standards identify issues that are of primary importance to their stakeholders. If not already financially material at the time of reporting, these impacts may become financially material over time. They provide both the framework and supporting standards on a wide range of sustainability topics and are aligned with international instruments for responsible business behavior.

Some companies use both standards, making their reporting effort high. To help address this, SASB and GRI plan to collaboratively demonstrate how some companies have used both sets of standards together and the lessons that can be shared. 

GRI and SASB also aim to help the consumers of sustainability data understand the similarities and differences in the information created from these standards.

“GRI and SASB share the guiding principle that transparency is the best currency for creating trust among organizations and their stakeholders,” says Tim Mohin, Chief Executive of GRI. “Investors, policy makers, civil society and other stakeholders are demanding improved disclosure of information on sustainability impacts, including those likely to drive risk and opportunity in both the short and long term.”

“In a post-COVID world, companies will increasingly be expected to disclose their performance on a range of ESG topics,” says Janine Guillot, CEO of SASB. “The pandemic has demonstrated that so-called ‘non-financial’ information can indeed highlight material financial implications. This makes the collaboration between SASB and GRI, and the increased clarity it will bring for all stakeholders, all the more timely.”

Initially the collaboration will focus on delivering communication materials to help stakeholders better understand how the standards may be used concurrently. SASB and GRI will also develop examples based on real-world reports that demonstrate how the standards can be used together.

These resources are planned to be delivered before the end of the year. It is expected that this can lead to the identification of further collaboration opportunities.