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Stock Exchanges and Sustainability

There is now a global effort by stock exchanges, regulators, companies and investors to mobilize every major stock exchange to adopt a listing standard for sustainability reporting. The INCR Sustainable Stock Exchanges Working Group is facilitating this effort by giving robust feedback on climate and sustainability issues with the major stock exchanges in North America.

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Stock exchanges play a unique role in shaping more sustainable capital markets. Stock exchanges are critical levers for improving the depth, consistency and comparability of corporate disclosure on sustainability performance, including climate change risks. Leading exchanges around the world have implemented robust corporate education programs, sustainability-themed indexes and set minimal standards for sustainability disclosure as a prerequisite for companies to list on those exchanges.

The list of governments and stock exchanges around the world requiring or encouraging corporate sustainability disclosure continues to grow—a recent study shows that there are currently 180 laws and regulatory standards in 45 countries calling for corporate sustainability reporting. Additionally, institutional investors have increased their focus on the critical role of stock exchanges in creating sustainable capital markets, including supporting mandatory requirements for stock exchanges to promote sustainability disclosure that is consistent and comparable across markets.

To bring attention to these issues, the United Nations created the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative (SSE Initiative). The SSE Initiative brings together stock exchanges, regulators, investors and other key stakeholders to promote improved disclosure on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and is co-organized by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

Aviva Investors and the PRI encouraged investor engagement with exchanges to advance the goals of the SSE Initiative. As part of this effort, INCR committed to engaging with five stock exchanges regarding corporate sustainability reporting and listing standards.

Investor Initiative for Sustainable Exchanges

Following the creation of the United Nations-led SSE Initiative, INCR formed the Investor Initiative for Sustainable Exchanges Working Group to support the SSE Initiative and convene a group of INCR members to coordinate engagement with stock exchanges and mobilize exchanges around the world to adopt a sustainability listing requirement.

Ceres and INCR, with input from global investors, developed the Investor Listing Standards Proposal: Recommendations for Stock Exchange Requirements on Corporate Sustainability Reporting. The Listing Standard Proposal has been submitted to World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) members for comment. The comment period, lasting several months, is facilitated through partnership with the World Federation of Exchanges and its recently formed Sustainability Working Group. For more information, please click here.

After engagement with INCR members, NASDAQ OMX joined the SSE Initiative as a “Partner Exchange” and made a formal commitment to promote sustainable investment and improved ESG disclosure and performance among its listed companies. The New York Stock Exchange quickly followed suit.

Learn more about sustainability progress by NASDAQ OMX and other major stock exchanges.

For more background on how investors are increasingly collaborating on stock exchange engagement, please see here.

Paul Abberley“Exchanges play a vital role in the move towards more sustainable capital markets as they have the opportunity to influence and monitor companies seeking to access equity markets.”

Paul Abberley, Chief Executive, Aviva Investors London

WFE Sustainability Reporting Guidance Consultation

In order to identify and highlight common investor sentiment on the World Federation of Exchanges’ (WFE) sustainability reporting guidance, Ceres has assembled a set of questions for investors to answer. The Investor Initiative for Sustainable Exchanges will organize investors’ responses into a report and submit it to the WFE's Sustainability Working Group for their consideration. Responses are due on Monday, February 22nd.

For more information, please contact Tracey Rembert or Robert Schwarz.

Download the WFE Comment Form. To complete the form, you will need to reference the accompanying WFE ESG Guidance Sheet.

Download the Investor Listing Standards Proposal


The Investor Listing Standards Proposal is a proposal and set of investor recommendations on a stock exchange listing standard focused on corporate sustainability disclosure.

Download the Investor Listing Standards Proposal