The non-financial reporting landscape is fragmented, and it can be complex for board directors to navigate. The Reporting Exchange highlights a significant increase in reporting provisions over the last ten years. It includes over 2,000 provisions across 70 countries, 55% of which are mandatory.
Disclosure of non-financial reporting is a key tool in communicating with stakeholders and is common practice globally. The priority for the board must be to ensure reporting provides an accurate representation of the company’s activities in a way that is readily digestible for stakeholders.
The board should encourage the integration of financial and non-financial information so that stakeholders can be provided with investment grade data. When the board reviews or signs off external reports, the information should align with company activities and performance, through robust metrics and material narrative the board can demonstrate a fair and balanced picture of the organization’s performance and prospects.
WBCSD developed Reporting matters in partnership with Radley Yeldar to help assess and improve the effectiveness of sustainability reporting. Every year, we analyze sustainability reports from our member companies. All member companies can have their report reviewed and engage with WBCSD through a company specific feedback session – we encourage all members to sign up. The 2021 edition of Reporting matters can be downloaded here.
In 2019, WBCSD conducted a deep dive into the state of reporting on governance and risk management among our membership. The full report can be downloaded here.
We assessed the extent to which the board has responsibility for ESG issues, and our research shows that 54% of companies have at least an ESG committee or equivalent, but for 13% of companies, there was no allocation of responsibility for ESG or sustainability. Aligned with this, our analysis also showed that the majority of companies (55%) scored a two, indicating that the current dominant practice is for the CEO or Board to have oversight of formal sustainability reporting, however regular and in-depth discussion of sustainability issues at board-level is lacking.
This is aligned with other recent studies that suggest the board has an awareness of ESG issues but the alignment with business strategy and board discussions needs to be strengthened. Our research also highlights that more can be done to improve disclosure on how sustainability is governed within organizations.
Questions to the Board
We have collated a series of questions for both board directors and executive management, designed to be used as prompts for discussion. The questions are intended to help organizations further integrate environmental and social considerations into the existing governance arrangements and decision-making processes within the organization.
There are a series of questions for the board to ask itself or consider in boardroom discussions and a series of questions for the board to collectively ask management to ensure the considerations are embedded in the business operations. Download the questions using the link below.
WBCSD Member Perspectives
“As investors are increasingly emphasizing ESG factors in their investment decision-making, companies should take ESG more seriously by incorporating them into their mainstream business practices and operations.”
ESG Discosure Handbook
WBCSD developed the ESG Disclosure Handbook to offer guidance to companies that are navigating the choices associated with ESG reporting, including:
- The ESG information needs of multiple stakeholders.
- Multiple reporting provisions.
- Internal and external objectives for reporting.
- Concerns about reporting “volume and clutter” obscuring important information.
The guidance in the ESG Disclosure Handbook is designed for use by companies when considering what to report, where, why, to whom and how in response to non-prescriptive mandatory ESG reporting requirements, voluntary ESG reporting requirements and corporate ESG reporting objectives. The guidance is a structured evaluation process to help companies address the multiple considerations that inform external ESG reporting decisions.
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
Financial markets need better, more comparable and complete information about climate change. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) aims to address this issue through their Recommendations, designed to help companies disclose climate-related financial risks and opportunities.
WBCSD’s TCFD Preparer Forums bring leading companies together to discuss disclosure practices, work that is needed to enhance disclosure effectiveness and implement the TCFD recommendations. In the Forums, members will identify examples of good practice, develop disclosure roadmaps and seek investor perspectives on TCFD disclosures, including how market participants use the information.
The Forum’s objectives are to review the current state of climate-related financial disclosure and to identify examples of effective practice consistent with the TCFD’s recommendations. In addition, the Forum provides a commentary on each of the recommendations and makes proposals about how disclosures may evolve over time. In the commentary, the Forum considers the seven principles of effective disclosure that form part of the TCFD recommendations to inform its observations about the types of climate-related financial disclosure that are useful and effective.
In 2019, CLP was highlighted as a leader in sustainability governance in WBCSD members Reporting matters assessment. CLP features a joint leadership commitment to sustainability from its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in its 2018 Sustainability Report. It details the governance structure in place to address sustainability issues in a distinct “Sustainability governance” section. CLP describes the roles and responsibilities of its Sustainability Committee, chaired by the CEO, that meets at least twice a year with direct links to the Committee Terms of Reference and a full report on activities for 2018. The report includes a table with clear focus areas and how the committee addresses them. CLP also discloses information on the Sustainability Executive Committee and the Group Sustainability Department which have strategic and operational responsibility for the management of sustainability issues.
Mondi have an ‘audience-led approach’ to reporting. Mondi produces both an integrated and stand-alone sustainability report. They are able to go into greater depth in each, based on stakeholder need, while still communicating their key themes across both reports. Their integrated report is primarily aimed at shareholders. It provides a balanced overview of their performance and insight into how their approach to strategy, governance and sustainability come together to generate long-term value. Their sustainability report provides analysts and other specialist audiences with more detail on their strategic approach of Growing Responsibility. It is linked to their material issues and describes their performance across all ten of their Growing Responsibility action areas.
We have curated a list of resources that may be useful to board directors, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather an example of further reading that can be done to enhance board awareness of key environmental, social and governance considerations.
If there are any resources that you think are missing, or that we should refer to, please do not hesitate to email us.
WBCSD & Radley Yeldar
Latham & Watkins