By Steve Shamrock, CPA, FSA, MBA, CMA
In spring of this year, the SEC asked investors about how public company disclosures in 10-K’s and 10-Q’s should change to keep pace with modern business. While only 4% of the document related to sustainability, 66% of the comments received related to sustainability disclosures. This overwhelming feedback is the latest sign that investors believe companies are not saying enough about how climate change, social, and governance issues will effect future profits and access to capital.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board standards were designed by a billionaire investors and former head of the Financial Accounting Standards Board to provide a cost- effective framework to disclose information that can impact stock price directly. What better people to would you want to represent investors but ones who have spent their lives driving and benefiting from information transparency.
The whole purpose of Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) is to tell investors how indicative current financial results are of future profits. Climate change and the massive changes it has and will continue to have on availability of resources and markets is a quintessential subject of MD&A, yet few companies have addressed it. What is wrong here? Investors are trying to tell companies but they are not listening.
Whatever the reason companies appear to be tone deaf to investors demands, fear of the unknown, being the first one in the pool, additional cost, every day companies delay in in folding sustainability into MD&A is another day of a higher cost of capital. Sustainability disclosures can be the key for companies to “get credit” for sustainable practices they already are doing and help to drive value-driving change in the company to increase stakeholder value even more.
Since SASB standards have not yet been used by many companies, those who adopt soon have an opportunity to define the space and ensure their practices are valued, forcing competitors to catch up.
Ignoring sustainability demands of investors is just like waving off the need to maintain a production machine or update recruiting practices. Companies ignore them at their peril, and at the peril of their shareholders. This is not the way to drive stakeholder value.
Steve Shamrock is a CPA residing in Chicago Illinois. He began his practice in 2013 after 25 years as an executive in companies large and small, public and private, foreign and domestic. He formed Sustainability Reporting Partners in 2016 to deliver turnkey, rapid implementation of SASB standards. His mission is to help sustainability reporting as common as financial reporting. He can be reached at email@example.com. He is certified in SASB standards (FSA I).
SASB press release on SEC Comment Release: