Sustainability reporting

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Sustainability reporting enables organizations to report on environmental and social performance. [1] It is not just report generation from collected data; instead it is a method to internalize and improve an organization’s commitment to sustainable development in a way that can be demonstrated to both internal and external stakeholders. [2]



Corporate sustainability reporting has a history going back to environmental reporting. The first environmental reports were published in the late 1980s by companies in the chemical industry which had serious image problems. The other group of early reporters was a group of committed small and medium-sized businesses with very advanced environmental management systems. Additionally, the tobacco industry adopted such reporting much earlier than the rest of the corporate world, in an attempt to attract new investors at a time when ethical investing was becoming increasingly popular.

Non-financial reporting, such as sustainability and CSR reporting, is a fairly recent trend which has expanded over the last twenty years. Many companies now produce an annual sustainability report and there are a wide array of ratings and standards around. There are a variety of reasons that companies choose to produce these reports, but at their core they are intended to be "vessels of transparency and accountability." Often they also intended to improve internal processes, engage stakeholders and persuade investors. [3]

An issue in sustainability reporting is whether and how much data related to environmental, social and corporate governance practices and impacts must be disclosed.

As a matter of law, in the United States, the materiality principles controls whether a publicly traded corporation must disclose certain information, that is: “a fact is material if there is a substantial likelihood that the . . . fact would have been viewed by a reasonable investor as having significantly altered the ‘total mix’ of information available.” [4] [ circular reference ]

In this case, some authors have examined and applied several factors (including the percentages of managed investment assets that are screened for ESG criteria, plus the fact that over 90% of large publicly traded companies publish ESG data) and concluded that ESG data qualifies as being material. [5] It has also been suggested that other organizations that issue securities may also be well-advised to also engage in sustainability reporting. [6]

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and SDG 12, Target 12.6 specifically encourages "companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting". [7]


Organizations can improve their sustainability performance by measuring (EthicalQuote (CEQ)), monitoring and reporting on it, helping them have a positive impact on society, the economy, and a sustainable future. The key drivers for the quality of sustainability reports are the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), [8] (ACCA) award schemes or rankings. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines enable all organizations worldwide to assess their sustainability performance and disclose the results in a similar way to financial reporting. [9] The largest database of corporate sustainability reports can be found on the website of the United Nations Global Compact initiative.

See also

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Sustainability accounting

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National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business

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Social accounting is the process of communicating the social and environmental effects of organizations' economic actions to particular interest groups within society and to society at large. Social Accounting is different from public interest accounting as well as from critical accounting.

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ESG Quant is an investment strategy, developed by Arabesque Partners, which involves quantitative equity investing while utilizing ESG information, often referred to as "non-financial" information. ESG Quant strategies are implemented within systematic trading or quantitative trading approaches that leverage a large and growing collection of commercial ESG, alternative and non-profit or academic datasets. As such there is no human judgment or discretionary buy-sell decision making; rather “in a pure quant model the final decision to buy or sell is made by the model” or through the “utilization of an expert system that replicates previously captured actions of real traders.”

Islamic Reporting Initiative

The Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI) is an independent not-for-profit organization leading the creation of the IRI standard; the guiding integrated Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting standard based on Islamic principles and values that works towards achieving international standards of best practice. The framework will enable organizations to inclusively assess, report, verify and certify their CSR and philanthropic programs supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.



  1. What is sustainability reporting?
  2. Global Reporting Initiative
  3. Rosie Bristow for the Guardian Professional Network. "Online discussion: sustainability reporting | Guardian Sustainable Business". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  4. "TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438, 449 (1976)".
  5. Adam, Sulkowski; Waddock, Sandra. "Beyond Sustainability Reporting: Integrated Reporting Is Practiced, Required & More Would Be Better". University of St. Thomas Law Review. 10: 1060–1123 via ResearchGate.
  6. Sulkowski, Adam (2016). "City Sustainability Reporting: An Emerging and Desirable Legal Necessity". Pace Environmental Law Review. 33: 278–299 via Research Gate.
  7. United Nations (2017) Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/RES/71/313)
  8. Archived April 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. [ dead link ]

Further reading