By Patrick Crawford, corporate engagement, Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB)
At the recent non-financial reporting conference in London, in association with ACCA and Deloitte, commentators including Richard Howitt MEP, noted that 80% of shareholder value is now from intangible rather than physical and financial assets.
Coincident with this conference, Eurosif and ACCA launched their investor survey on non-financial reporting. The key findings from 90 investors support the need for integrating non-financial and financial reporting:
- Non-financial reporting must be comparable across companies.
- Non-financial information should be better integrated with financial information
- Quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential and Qualitative policy statements are very important to assess financial materiality.
Rather than information that simply complies with reporting requirements, investors are seeking reports that communicate performance, including clear insights into issues that have a material impact on a company’s current and future performance. Communicating performance is of value to investor decision-making but equally to businesses as the integration of non-financial and financial information opens up new avenues of communication within the company, providing additional perspectives to their Boards.
My clear sense on leaving the non-financial conference was that investors are using this non-financial information now but they need more help in understanding the impacts on the business. A company’s response to these issues adds value by reducing risks and creating opportunities for the future. Placing ‘sustainability’ into its own report has been a useful first step for companies but there are still many people who say they do not know what ‘sustainability’ means. However, they all have views on what is needed for a business to be ‘sustainable’ in the long-term. Connecting these material issues with financial results requires integrated thinking as much as integrated reporting.
We know that many companies are taking these issues seriously, but until now there has been no structured means of communicating performance in mainstream reports in a consistent and compatible way with financial accounting standards.
The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) was created at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2007 by a group of international business organisations in response to the absence of a structured means of providing climate change-related information in mainstream reports. CDSB’s Technical Working Group drives its work and includes representatives from key global institutions including the main accountancy firms, professional accountancy institutions, investors, report preparers and governments. CDSB’s Reporting Framework is designed to integrate non-financial and financial information in a credible and standardised way.
As the CDSB Framework adopts relevant principles from existing financial standards, companies, accountants and corporate report preparers will find the Framework familiar and useable. CDSB works closely and collaboratively with other global sustainability bodies such as World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and World Resource Institute (WRI). In addition CDSB and CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) have MoUs with the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the US Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).
CDSB is managed as a special project of CDP. More than 4,200 companies who report their climate change emissions using the CDP process are already ahead of the game. By using CDSB’s Framework they can apply the lens of materiality to their CDP response, incorporating the risks and opportunities from climate change and the growing scarcity of natural resources in their annual reports in a transparent, consistent and comparable way.
The Framework is designed to be ‘Standards Ready’, ready to be adopted by governments in support of the introduction of national regulation on disclosure of climate change and other non-financial impacts. DEFRA’s official guidance cites CDSB’s Reporting Framework as one mean of compliance with UK mandatory requirements to report GHG emissions. Using the Framework provides a means of preparing a company for the increasing amount of regulation that is being discussed and drafted around the world.
To assist companies and report preparers in using the Framework CDSB, with the support of ACCA, has produced a guidance document available here. The CDSB website includes other resources, including recordings of recent webinars introducing the Framework.