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ESG Reporting Frameworks Comparison - Pros and Cons of Each

You’ll probably have heard a fair amount about ESG reporting frameworks lately. 

What was once a niche among organizations looking to quantify, measure and report the good that they were creating, is now growing in popularity. 

With the popularity of ESG’s set to grow - now is as good a time as ever to start exploring the different ESG reporting frameworks.

To help you with this, we’ve broken down some of the main ESG reporting standards. We’ve also provided some of the pros and cons of each, so you 



Why are ESG ratings important?

The increased popularity of ESG ratings come down to a variety of factors. In most cases, the pressure to improve is around the worsening state of climate change.

Key events such as COP26 have meant that organizations are under more pressure to do their bit towards net-zero. One of the ways to make sure of this is by following an ESG framework. ESG frameworks quantify the progress towards net-zero emissions that organizations are aiming for. This helps measure progress and keep everyone on track.

Next, investors who own stakes in your organization are looking to ensure their money is in safe hands. One of the ways they do this is by requiring the organization to report on their ESG ratings. 

The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund was a pioneer in showing that responsible investments are also more likely to outperform market averages. This makes positive ESG rated organizations attractive not just from a humanitarian perspective, but also a commercial one.

 

What are ESG reporting requirements?

In order to grade organizations' ESG ratings, organizations are required to report on company activities. To make sure that organizations are reporting on useful data that is comparable with one another - standards have emerged. These standards are what forms ESG reporting frameworks, which will often dictate ESG reporting requirements.

There are many different reporting frameworks, each with their own reporting requirements. Choosing which ESG reporting framework to follow also means choosing which requirements to follow, so choose wisely!

How many ESG reporting frameworks are there?

There are many ESG reporting frameworks, and new ones are being created all the time. In fact, for some organizations, it may make sense to create your own ESG reporting framework, rather than following an existing one.

For most organizations however, your best option is usually to follow an existing framework. 

When choosing an ESG framework, there are lots of variables to consider. Not all are made equal. This is why we’ve written this article, to take you through and compare some the different ESG reporting frameworks available.

ESG Reporting Frameworks Compared

The following ESG reporting frameworks are some of the most popular, and ones we would suggest considering:


SASB

SASB is one of the most popular frameworks for reporting on ESG factors. 

It makes clear distinction between frameworks and standards - focusing on the latter. This means that the SASB provides specific and actionable metrics, rather than more general guidelines for what topics and themes to report on.

It is designed specifically for companies to report to investors on sustainability issues that impact the long-term value of traded companies.

More information on SASB can be found on their website.

Pros

The SASB standards are robust, and when widely used within industry, provide a useful comparison point to evaluate companies against one another.

SASB standards also provide a way to implement frameworks that are relevant to the company.

Cons

The focus is on standards (metrics). This means not every metric included will be relevant to your organization. It therefore is more useful when used in conjunction with another framework that guides the areas relevant to your organization and its strategic objectives.

GHG Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol states that it provides the ‘world's most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standards’. They owe this to wide stakeholder consultation throughout the development of these standards.

They offer a multitude of different standards, for different use cases. This includes standards for: corporations, cities, products, supply chains, projects, policies and more.

They provide the foundations for organizations to build their own, more sophisticated, ESG calculation tools and frameworks. They also provide fairly basic tools that can offer a springboard into more advanced measurement tools.

For more information on GHG Protocol, head to their website.

Pros

As stated, they’re the most widely used protocol, giving a high degree of comparability between organizations.

Foundational frameworks provide organizations the freedom to develop more sophisticated models.

Cons

Focus is primarily on Greenhouse Gas, meaning other sustainability factors aren’t considered.

Foundational frameworks mean additional development is often needed - this could reduce comparability if ‘overdeveloped’.


GRI

The Global Reporting Index sets standards for impact reporting. Their standards are fairly diverse, covering people, the economy and the environment. 

They work closely with governments and other public-sector organizations in defining standards that are both representative and independent. To ensure fair representation, they’re governed by layers of committees, stakeholders and strategic representatives.

They claim to have the most widely used sustainability standards (differing from GHG Protocol’s ‘Greenhouse Gas Standards’). They also (like SASB) have specific sector and topic standards, allowing organizations to implement those most relevant to them.

For more information on GRI, click here.

Pros

GRI’s emphasis on governance and transparency in the formation of it’s standards suggest that they’re most likely to be a fair representation of stakeholders needs. They’re unlikely to be biased or skewed to a specific group.

Standards are freely available and can be adopted without any investment

Cons

GRI has a heavy public sector influence, which although ensures the reliability of representation in the standards, may be less useful for private-sector companies.

Although they’re a non-profit and standards are freely available, GRI (like others) charges for consultations and appraisals of the implementation of those standards.


Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)

The Carbon Disclosure Project differs to the other ESG Frameworks in the sense that it provides a central platform by which all participants report to. They’re then ranked by the CDP on their scores.

This sets the CDP apart as a governing authority, who collate ESG data rather than the other organizations, who are more issuers of those standards and frameworks.

The CDP could therefore be viewed more as a ‘managed service’, providing a hands-on evaluation of ESG scores - as opposed to giving your organization the framework and allowing you to do with it as you wish.

Pros

Organizations who wish their ESG score to appear in the public domain may benefit from their ranking system.

Those who wish to essentially ‘outsource’ the calculation of ESG data have the option to here.

Cons

It is unclear what frameworks they’re using, whether it is one internally created or another that has been discussed.

The ‘managed service’ may not be ideal for organizations who wish to retain control over their ESG reporting.

TCFD

The Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures was the brainchild of the Financial Stability Board. It is made up of 32 members from different industries across the world, with the goal of transparency and advancements in climate related disclosure

Rather than producing specific frameworks or metrics, the TCFD makes recommendations for industries across a range of themes and topics. This includes governance, strategy, risk management and targets/metrics.

Pros

The TCFD’s board members include representatives from some of the largest and most influential companies. The chair is a representative from Bloomberg.

The private sector focus may be appealing to for-profit companies. 

Recommendations provide organizations with flexibility to establish their own standards.

Cons

Guidelines and recommendations can only go so far, and do little to provide ‘comparability’ over different organizations and industries.

Is there a Global ESG Standard?

With all the different standards available, it would certainly make things easier if a global ESG standard was introduced. Thankfully, some of those organizations mentioned are working to bring them together - creating a global ESG standard.

Until then, we suggest you go with the standard that best caters your own needs. Then, once new more cohesive standards are introduced, consider switching.

The important thing to consider is that whatever standard is introduced may change, and that the software you use to help calculate will have to accommodate this.

Intuitix has been designed to update and evolve with new ESG frameworks, making the process simple and easy to introduce new reporting frameworks. To find out more, book a call with one of our team.

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