GRI and SASB are collaborating. Is that excellent news for firms?

For years, company reporters — these inside firms liable for creating sustainability experiences and reporting environmental, social and governance information to numerous different organizations — have been pissed off by what many consult with as an alphabet soup of requirements and frameworks: CDP, GRI, IIRC, PRI, SASB, TCFD, UNGC and extra.

And whereas they grumbled at how these varied organizations’ requests weren’t harmonized, they dutifully complied with their requests and mandates.

Lastly, assist could also be on the best way.

Right now, two of these organizations — GRI, previously the World Reporting Initiative, and the Sustainability Accounting Requirements Board, higher often called SASB — are saying a collaborative effort to assist ease that confusion and, not insignificantly, place their requirements as essentially the most consequential.

“Our fundamental SASB 101 pitch that we give to everybody we communicate to talks about SASB and GRI as being complementary, however we by no means may break by into the general public sphere with that message,” SASB CEO Janine Guillot informed me. “It was at all times this battle narrative, which was extraordinarily irritating.”

The “battle narrative” wasn’t with out basis. For years, the 2 organizations competed for consideration and dominance amongst company reporters, NGOs and the mainstream investor neighborhood. Generally it obtained contentious. For instance, at a sustainability reporting convention in Singapore final fall, the CEOs of GRI and SASB “traded barbs over whose was the superior commonplace,” based on one report — a “showdown,” as sustainability reporting professional Elaine Cohen known as it.

For years, the 2 organizations competed for consideration and dominance. Generally it obtained contentious.

On the occasion, SASB’s then-CEO Madelyn Antoncic known as GRI too tough for traders to know and for firms to match their efficiency with friends. GRI CEO Tim Mohin identified that its commonplace is utilized by 75 p.c of the world’s largest firms. “With these numbers, I don’t see how what SASB is saying might be true,” he stated.

However that was so final yr. SASB has a brand new CEO — Guillot — who joined SASB 5 years in the past after a decade on the investing aspect with Barclays and CalPERS, and who got here to her CEO job with a robust working relationship with Mohin. Now, the 2 are in lockstep — child steps for now — to assist the shoppers of sustainability information “perceive the similarities and variations within the info created from these requirements,” based on a joint briefing doc.

The time could also be ripe for such a collaboration, for a number of causes. One is the rising deal with sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics by the mainstream funding neighborhood, making a better want for a set of dominant requirements to emerge. If there was any query about this development, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink solid away all doubts in his annual shareholder letter, which referenced SASB and TCFD, the reporting framework created by the Activity Power on Local weather-related Monetary Disclosures.

Such harmonized metrics are wanted even inside firms, the place sustainability departments are speaking with much more stakeholders.

“You’ve got obtained a wider base of people who find themselves excited about speaking about these matters, coming from a wider array of disciplines,” stated Mohin, together with “an investor relations individual, a company secretary, a normal counsel, a monetary controller, a advertising communications individual and an HR individual. Rapidly, you have to convey collectively these multidisciplinary groups inside each firms and traders. And that goes all the best way as much as the board, since boards of administrators are actually excited about these matters.”

In fact, exterior the company is one other small military of teams — clients, staff, regulators, and so on. — in search of simply understood and comparable information about firms’ sustainability efficiency.

After which there’s COVID.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed us something, it’s that nonfinancial disclosure could be very significant from a worldwide monetary standpoint, and that the idea of what’s financially materials and what’s thought-about not financially materials is a really dynamic factor,” Mohin defined. “We went from the problems which can be essential in a pandemic being form of down the listing to being entrance and heart in a single day. And now we have now the problems of racial justice and inequality entrance and heart. We have seen how the occasions of the world can change that definition for a corporation very, in a short time, which I believe is without doubt one of the crucial messages right here of why GRI and SASB must work collectively.”

The pandemic has put into sharper focus quite a lot of points of company efficiency, together with enterprise contributions to biodiversity loss and the ensuing elevated potential for illness outbreaks; and the necessity for extra resilient provide chains, particularly for important items comparable to meals and medication, as Guillot identified lately on GreenBiz.

Concord and collaboration

For now, the 2 organizations’ work collectively will deal with going into with harmonized, complementary messages. One aim, Mohin stated, is to “perceive how the completely different requirements are utilized by firms. After which take the following step, which is to point out in apply firms which can be utilizing each requirements.”

One other aim is to “exhibit with actual dwell firms who’re reporting to each units of requirements how the businesses are doing it, why they’re doing it and what sort of info every supplies for stakeholders,” Guillot stated. She additionally steered the opportunity of doing a little “mock disclosures,” pulling collectively greatest practices from throughout a number of firms.

For now, the 2 organizations’ work collectively will deal with going into with harmonized, complementary messages.

Past that could be a world of different collaboration potentialities, about which neither Mohin nor Guillot would speculate.

Can the GRI-SASB hookup change the sport? Mike Wallace thinks so. Wallace — who ran GRI’s North America operation from 2009 to 2014, and who stays laser targeted on reporting requirements and ESG rankings methodologies in his position as a associate on the consultancy ERM — believes that better collaboration may particularly assist these simply starting the reporting “journey.”

“It’s a complicated area for brand new entrants when one considers the assorted choices, requests and strategies for how you can tackle the rising demand for ESG info,” he informed me, citing “at the very least a half-dozen disclosure choices.”

“We’re frequently integrating a variety of the frameworks, tips and requirements collectively for purchasers,” Wallace added. “For these firms which can be simply getting began, the GRI and SASB collaboration can be enormously appreciated.”

True, we’ve seen this film earlier than. The 2 organizations have lengthy mentioned the alternatives for collaboration. Two years in the past, we reported on a Bloomberg-funded effort to convey the GRI and SASB requirements “according to one another wherever potential.”

After which there’s the proposed reporting framework introduced in January on the World Financial Discussion board’s annual convention in Davos. Created by WEF’s Worldwide Enterprise Council in collaboration with the Massive 4 accounting companies and endorsed by the CEOs of 140 massive firms, it recommends a set of core metrics and disclosures “to be mirrored within the mainstream annual experiences of firms on a constant foundation throughout trade sectors and international locations.”

However it doesn’t precisely see getting rid of SASB, GRI and their kin. As reported by the Monetary Instances, the WEF framework “takes inspiration from current disclosure frameworks comparable to SASB, the World Reporting Initiative and the TCFD and also will embrace the EU’s new taxonomy that defines inexperienced devices.”

Complicated? It appears harmonization and simplification of company sustainability reporting should be a methods off.

Nonetheless, the SASB-GRI announcement is promising. Each organizations consider that transparency — and notably efficiency metrics and comparable info — result in improved societal outcomes.

Mentioned SASB’s Guillot: “If monetary and nonfinancial stakeholders have entry to info and may examine firm efficiency on points, then our concept of change is that firms will compete to enhance efficiency and that on the finish of the day results in improved sustainability outcomes.”

Which is, in spite of everything, the purpose.

I invite you to comply with me on Twitter, subscribe to my Monday morning e-newsletter, GreenBuzz, and hearken to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.

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