The proliferation of sustainability accounting standards comes with costs

NOWHERE IS CORPORATE do-goodery more on show than in a firm’s sustainability report. Today 58% of companies in America’s S&P 500 index publish one, up from 37% in 2011, according to Datamaran, a software provider. Among the photos of blooming flowers and smiling children, firms sneak in environmental, social and governance (ESG) data, such as their carbon footprint or the share of women on boards. But the information differs wildly from firm to firm.

The Reporting Exchange, a website that helps corporations disclose sustainability data, tracks various ESG-related guidelines, such as regulations and standards. Across the world the number grew from around 700 in 2009 to more than 1,700 in 2019. That includes more than 360 different ESG accounting standards.

Some observers, then, may have rolled their eyes on September 22nd when the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced—with the backing of the big four accounting firms, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC—a new set of ESG metrics for firms to report. Those involved are at pains to stress that this is not yet another new standard, but instead a collection of useful measures picked from other standards. The intention, they claim, is to simplify ESG reporting, not to add to the confusion.

Simplification is sorely needed. Investors complain that the proliferation of standards...

via Business Feeds

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