Stakeholders are asking questions: How to tell them a credible ESG story

Stakeholders are increasingly factoring environment, social and governance (ESG) reporting into their assessments of business performance. They have broad expectations. More than 60% of consumers told us their ESG focus areas are: data security and privacy, climate change, product safety and quality, worker health & safety; and racial and gender diversity and inclusion. They want businesses to step up investments in all these areas.

Evolving rules and standards are also pushing to fast track ESG.

  • In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed new rules to enhance and standardize companies’ climate-related disclosures. The proposed disclosures are broadly aligned with frameworks such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
  • In the European Union, US-based companies with entities there will likely have to comply with the European Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). 
  • At the COP26 conference, the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) was announced. It is an important step forward toward developing consistent ESG reporting standards and strengthening capital markets.

Four ways to move your company toward investor-grade ESG reporting

1. Decide on your ESG strategy and metrics

The first step is strategic. Set an overarching approach to ESG. It should be supported by a clear tone from the top, with the CEO and leadership team commitment to encourage buy-in across the entire organization in a cohesive and inclusive way.

2. Define process and governance steps to have confidence in your reporting

Standardized policies, procedures, controls and governance are crucial if you’re going to efficiently manage ESG reporting. Automated workflow and data transformation tools can help make sure that your data is appropriate and that your metrics are clearly defined. Through this kind of structured approach to reporting processes and governance, your ESG story will be grounded in objective and reliable data.

3. Design your reporting architecture and technology

Treat ESG reporting like the integrated effort that it is. Create an architecture that includes data sourcing, aggregation, calculation, validation, reporting and analytics. Leverage existing financial reporting architectures to the greatest degree possible. Map each ESG reporting element to the architecture.

4. Tell an authentic and coherent story

When telling your company’s ESG story, it’s critical to present more than a snapshot of where you are now. Rather, talk about where you want to go next and how you plan to get there. That evolution helps position you to take action now, with reporting and data that you can stand behind now and in the future.

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Kevin O'Connell

Kevin O'Connell

Trust Solutions Sustainability Leader, PwC US

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