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Our Insights 13 Sep 2018

SustainAbility at the Global Climate Action Summit: Room for Improvement in Climate Reporting

By Rebecca O'Neill

SustainAbility is at The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and will be sharing blog updates about some of the events throughout the week.

You can read the first blog of this series here.

Room for improvement in climate reporting

Event: Reporting Your Climate Commitments: A ‘how to’ discussion with GRI and SASB, September 12th

Disclosure of climate risks, performance and goals is a growing area of focus for many companies. So it was an expected topic for a side event of the Global Climate Action Summit. This event was co-organized by Bloomberg, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Standards Accounting Board (SASB).

A few themes emerged from the presentations and discussion with participants, who were mainly corporate reporters seeking practical insights on how to navigate the complex disclosure space:

  • Climate is material for all companies – 72 of 79 SASB standards list climate change as a potentially material issue, but the way it impacts businesses varies hugely depending on their industry. Investors of all types are increasingly analyzing corporate performance and goals on the topic.
  • Companies have room for improvement in disclosure – Though 85% of companies report on Scope 1 and 2 emissions, only 65% report on Scope 3 and 67% on climate goals. Investors also question what is currently reported: Only 29% of investors are confident in the quality of ESG data, according to the 2016 PWC ESG Pulse Report.
  • Investors increasingly want raw performance data – The topic of ratings came up (as it inevitably does in events on reporting) and Matthew Welch, President of the SASB Foundation, shared that investors tell him they do not rely on ratings but want to source company data on energy or emissions to make their own determination on performance.

The event was lighter than we expected on climate commitments guidance as the conversation veered into broader challenges of sustainability reporting and ratings. However, the key message we heard applies to both climate and sustainability more broadly: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. In other words, disclose what information you do have in whatever form possible and focus on continuous improvement.

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