Posted on March 22, 2016 by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist

#Business & Society #Corporate Governance #Corporate Responsibility #Corporate Sustainability #ESG Issues #Materiality #Sustainability Big Data #Sustainability Professionals #Sustainability Reporting 

For institutional investors, the key benchmark for many professionals is the S&P 500®, which is considered to be the best single gauge of large-cap U. S. equities. More than US$7 trillion in Assets Under Management are benchmarked to this index, including indexed AUM of $1.9 trillion. In all, the S&P 500 captures 80% coverage of available market cap.
The G&A Institute research team tracks the sustainability / responsibility / citizenship reporting activities of these 500 leading companies.  When we started our annual tallying of reporters/non-reporters in 2011, we found that 80% of the S&P were not publishing sustainability reports.  The 2015 tally show that 81% were reporting – a dramatic reversal over the five year period.

Put another way, the non-reporters went from being 80% of the total to just 19% now – a dramatic trend that reflects, we believe, the steadily increasing expectation of asset owners and managers, and other stakeholders (such as major customers) that large-cap publicly-traded companies will develop sustainability strategies, organize teams, measure key ESG data sets, manage carbon emissions, water intake and waste, and much more…and then report on their progress in a structured manner.  (Many of the S&P 500 embrace the Global Reporting Initiative framework).
Louis Coppola, G&A’s executive vice president, designs and coordinates the annual S&P 500 analysis project.  His thoughts on reviewing the 2015 reporting, and the dramatic shift over the five years of researching: “Corporate leaders have become more sophisticated in the disclosures and reporting activities, with an increased focus on using concepts such as materiality, stakeholder engagement, comparability, context, timelines, and reliability to make ESG data more strategically useful for decision-making by both management and stakeholders, including investors.”
The 2016 review of corporate reporting activities in 2015 included the work of a very talented intern team – their contributions were important and we salute them here:

  •  Julia Casciotti – Columbia University – M.P.H in Environmental Health Sciences, May 2016
  • Alexander Cohen – Baruch College – MBA Sustainability and International Business, December 2015
  • Kristina Jette Mullen – Simmons School of Management – MBA in Sustainability & Business Strategy, May 2015
  • Ashley Thomsen – W.P. Carey School of Business – B.A. Global Logistics Management, May 2016
  • Alvis Yuen – City College of New York  M.S. in Sustainability, December 2016

We invite you to read and download for your files the details of our S&P 500 research effort:
FLASH REPORT: Eighty One Percent (81%) of the S&P 500 Index Companies Published Corporate Sustainability Reports in 2015
(Tuesday – March 15, 2016)
Source: Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. – G&A Institute charted the rapid and significant uptake in corporate sustainability reporting among the 500 companies — over the years sustainability reporting rose from just 20% of the companies reporting in 2011 to 81% in 2015….