Nature and Biodiversity

New global sustainability reporting requirements are out. Here’s what companies need to know

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New International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standards will set worldwide sustainability reporting requirements for decades to come. Image: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Sue Lloyd
Vice-Chair, International Sustainability Standards Board
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Sustainable Finance and Investment

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  • A set of standards released by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will set worldwide sustainability reporting requirements for decades to come.
  • The standards place more onus on companies to disclose how climate change affects their business.
  • But issuing the standards is just the start; now the work begins to get companies to start using them.

The effort to unify global sustainability reporting rules has just taken a major leap forward. Backed by the G20, a set of standards released by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will set worldwide sustainability reporting requirements for decades to come. The new requirements pave the way for companies across jurisdictions to disclose uniform climate and sustainability information.

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This effort places more onus on companies to disclose how climate change affects their business. It aligns with financial accounting practices in more than 140 countries and will help investors understand the sustainability-related risks and opportunities facing businesses.

Singapore, Canada and the UK have already signalled that they are looking at routes to integrate the new standards.

The ISSB was launched at the United Nations’ COP 26 climate summit in November 2021 following a call from world leaders, investors and regulators for a more rigorous approach to company sustainability disclosures that can help combat greenwashing. It is the sister body of the International Accounting Standards Board, whose accounting standards are used in more than 140 countries.

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Issuing the standards is just the start; now the work begins to get companies to start using them. We are grateful to the World Economic Forum and its efforts to support this through the newly announced Forum ISSB Preparers Group.

To aid this work, here are 10 things you need to know about the ISSB’s new standards:

  • There is now a global baseline for sustainability disclosures. ISSB Standards provide a single global baseline for companies to report on their sustainability-related risks and opportunities. Any additional jurisdictional requirements can be built on top of this global baseline.
  • The ISSB’s work has international backing. Investors, companies, policy-makers and market regulators from around the world have shown their support. Notable organizations include the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) – widely recognized as the global standard setter for the securities sector – and the Financial Stability Board, the international body that makes recommendations about the global financial system. Moreover, leaders from G7 and G20 countries have given their backing. The World Economic Forum’s International Business Council Executive Committee has also welcomed the release of the Standards.
  • They provide vital information for investors to make informed decisions. Focusing exclusively on capital markets means that ISSB Standards only require information that is material, proportionate and useful for investors’ decision-making. By beginning with disclosures focused on climate, companies can phase in their sustainability disclosures.
  • They build on and consolidate existing initiatives. The standards do not start anew. Rather they build on recommendations from notable organizations like the Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) framework, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the World Economic Forum’s Stakeholder Metrics. The ISSB’s consolidation of standards enables companies to take advantage of their existing sustainability disclosures and reduce reporting against multiple standards.
  • They reduce duplication. The baseline approach provides a way to achieve global comparability for financial markets. It also allows jurisdictions to develop additional requirements as necessary to meet public policy or broader stakeholder needs. This approach helps to reduce duplicate reporting for companies operating in different markets who are subject to multiple jurisdictional requirements.
  • They help companies communicate globally and cost-effectively. The ISSB Standards are designed to provide reliable information to investors. The standards help companies communicate how they identify and manage the sustainability-related risks and opportunities they face over the short, medium and longer term.
  • They go hand-in-hand with financial statements. The information required by the ISSB Standards is designed to be provided alongside financial statements as part of the same reporting package. ISSB Standards have been developed to work with any accounting requirements. However, they are primarily built on the concepts underpinning IFRS Accounting Standards, used in more than 140 jurisdictions.
  • They were developed through rigorous consultation. ISSB Standards have been developed through the same inclusive, transparent due process used to develop IFRS Accounting Standards – with more than 1,400 responses to the ISSB’s proposals. All ISSB papers, feedback and technical decision-making are available to view online.
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How is the World Economic Forum helping companies track their positive contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?

  • They offer interoperability with broader sustainability reporting. The ISSB collaborates with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to ensure its requirements are interoperable with GRI standards. This partnership helps to reduce the disclosure burden for companies using both ISSB and GRI Standards for reporting.
  • They help expedite the adoption and implementation of sustainability reporting globally. The ISSB’s responsibilities do not stop at standard setting. At COP27, the ISSB announced plans for a partnership programme focused on capacity building. This programme aims to establish the necessary resources for high-quality, consistent reporting across developed and emerging economies.

Together, these inaugural standards and the ISSB’s capacity building programme will help build trust and confidence, and bring much-needed global comparability to the sustainability disclosure landscape.

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Nature and BiodiversityStakeholder CapitalismLeadership
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