Four years in the making, and the penultimate step in a six-year march toward codification and market use, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has published its Exposure Draft Standards for 79 industries. The documents will be open for a 90-day public comment period, ending Dec. 31.

“This is a milestone moment – for the SASB, but also for the capital markets and all who care about efficient pricing and material risks," Jean Rogers, founder of the SASB and current chair of the nine-member Standards Board, said in a statement. "Engagement in the public comment period will ensure the codified standards are focused on financially material sustainability factors, yield decision-useful information for investors, and are cost-effective for preparers.”

Established in 2011, SASB is an independent standards-setting organization dedicated to enhancing the efficiency of the capital markets by fostering high-quality disclosure of financially material sustainability information that meets investor needs. It develops and maintains sustainability accounting standards—for 79 industries in 11 sectors—that are intended to help public corporations disclose material information to investors in annual SEC filings.

Provisional standards were issued for 11 sectors between August 2013 and March 2016, providing a baseline from which SASB has worked to make improvements. Changes in the newly published Exposure Drafts of the standards reflect the nature of sustainability issues, which are often newly emerging, frequently evolving, and increasingly well understood. Each proposed change was subject to the SASB's standard-setting process. A priority was given to items that would improve the quality of the standard, including materiality and the cost-effectiveness of implementation.

Exposure Drafts containing proposed changes via redlines are available for download in PDF format on the SASB website, along with an accompanying Basis for Conclusion for each proposed change. The Basis for Conclusion document emphasizes the SASB's rigorous process, while presenting summaries of each proposed change, the SASB staff's research into the matter, evidence supporting materiality, input from consultation with issuers and investors, and how the change will impact the standard. The Standards Board will aim to incorporate feedback from the public comment period and finalize the standards in Q1 of 2018.