CERES ROADMAP VISION:
The growing call for mandatory environmental and social disclosure is pushing reporting to the mainstream. A number of countries worldwide already require some form of corporate sustainability disclosure, and there is growing support for similar requirements in the United States. Comprehensive disclosure of sustainability performance and impacts is a key part of a company’s sustainability journey. What gets measured gets managed, and what gets disclosed gets done. Disclosure is not just a way for companies to tell their story. It is also a way to build relationships with key groups and a critical part of the process for determining their impacts and identifying new business opportunities.
Since 2002, when 60 organizations formed the Corporate Sunshine Working Group, there has been ongoing investor engagement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over its rules, guidance and enforcement activity relating to corporate disclosure of environmental impacts. Responding to investor requests, in January 2010, the SEC released interpretive guidance on disclosing climate risks in financial filings.
In September 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that requires the disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions by large sources and suppliers in the United States. U.S. insurance regulators–through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)–also require that insurance companies disclose climate risks and opportunities annually to their customers and investors.
Market information providers, including Bloomberg, are taking advantage of this rising interest in corporate sustainability disclosure. In 2009, Bloomberg launched a new product that allows clients to search, display and store sustainability information of more than 5,200 publicly traded companies on their terminals. According to Bloomberg, the number of users accessing this information increased 50% from 2010 to 2011.
The growth in social media has also begun to blur the line between disclosure and engagement, creating new opportunities for dialogue but also new pressure for transparency. As social media enables internet users to share news and make their opinions about corporate sustainability issues known in real time, companies have to be prepared for open and honest discussion of sustainability performance issues as they arise.
The expectations identified in this section outline the characteristics of an approach to disclosure that meets these new and emerging challenges.