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As Sustainability Reporting Matures, Focus Shifts to Materiality

Jaclyn Jaeger | July 1, 2014

Corporate America is on the verge of a major revolution in sustainability reporting. Everything—the what, how, and when—is about to change.

The way companies have traditionally approached sustainability reporting is to disclose in anecdotal terms their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) efforts in their annual reports. A lack of standard disclosure metrics, however, continues to leave investors unsatisfied since they generally can't compare one company's ESG efforts to another's. And many companies disclose only positive, sometimes vague reports that lack the rigor of financial reporting.

Such information is “not consistent, not comparable, and it's not useful,” says Jean Rogers, founder and executive director of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a non-profit standard-setting body established in 2011.

“One of the challenges...

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