A recent article in the Financial Times neatly pinpoints an underlying problem with sustainability reporting: the proliferation of frameworks that threaten to overwhelm investors and reporters. In the view of XBRL (the business reporting standard), it comes down to the need to have a single set of global standards and accompanying XBRL taxonomy for non-financial reporting – ideally built on existing frameworks. Only this would give the data the comparability and usability that regulators, policymakers and investors need.
Companies are increasingly responding to investor demand for more environmental, social and governance (ESG) information, however, with so many competing frameworks – such as the GRI, SASB, TCFD and hundreds of others – the problem is no longer data quantity but how to validate and analyse contradictory and variegated clumps of data.
The dominant frameworks agree on the need for a unified approach that builds an integrated global non-financial reporting standard for investors. But should market forces or regulators drive this process? While the EU and China are taking a legislative route to demand disclosure of non-financial information, they do not prescribe the specific reporting standard, expecting businesses to adopt established global frameworks.
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