The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (the SASB) published its Exposure Draft Standards for 79 industries, which are now open for a 90-day public comment period, ending December 31, 2017. This period allows the public to review and comment on proposed changes to help ensure high-quality standards that are cost-effective and decision-useful. The public comment period is a critical component of the SASB’s transparent and inclusive process and is the penultimate step in the SASB’s six-year march toward codification and market use.
“This is a milestone moment – for the SASB, but also for the capital markets and all who care about efficient pricing and material risks,” said Jean Rogers, founder of the SASB and current chair of the nine-member Standards Board. “Engagement in the public comment period will ensure the codified standards are focused on financially material sustainability factors, yield decision-useful information for investors, and are cost-effective for preparers.”
Provisional standards were issued for 11 sectors between August 2013 and March 2016, providing a baseline from which the SASB has worked to make improvements. The changes in the newly published Exposure Drafts of the standards reflect the nature of sustainability issues, which are often newly emerging, frequently evolving, and increasingly well understood. These changes arose from significant market feedback and/or regulatory and scientific advancement, and priority was given to items that would improve the quality of the standard, including the materiality and/or decision-usefulness of the information the standard is designed to yield and the cost-effectiveness of implementation.
“Robust and resilient sustainability accounting standards must not only address sustainability-related risks and opportunities, they must themselves be sustainable – designed to continually and systematically adapt to new evidence and an ever-changing world,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hales, vice chair of the SASB Standards Board. “The SASB engages in ongoing technical research, market consultation, and public feedback to help ensure we maintain the highest quality of standards.”
Each proposed change was subject to the SASB’s rigorous standard-setting process, which is evidence-based, market-informed, and validated through research and quantitative analysis. The SASB’s process ensures quality outcomes as the standards adapt to shifts in an industry’s competitive context, in the broader sustainability landscape, or in the interests of investors. More information on this process can be found in the SASB’s staff bulletin on materiality.
Exposure Drafts containing proposed changes via redlines are available for download in PDF format on the SASB website, along with an accompanying Basis for Conclusion for each proposed change. The Basis for Conclusion document emphasizes the SASB’s rigorous process, while presenting summaries of each proposed change, the SASB staff’s research into the matter, evidence supporting materiality, input from consultation with issuers and investors, and how the change will impact the standard. The Standards Board will aim to incorporate feedback from the public comment period and finalize the standards in Q1 of 2018.