June 04, 2014
Sustainability Reporting by Large Corporations Up Sharply
by Robert Kropp
In its updated analysis of sustainability reporting by S&P 500 companies, the Governance &
Accountability Institute finds that almost three-quarters now do so.
According to Institutional Shareholder
Services (ISS), the number of resolutions withdrawn by shareowners this proxy season has set a
record already. The influential proxy advisory firm reported recently that 166 resolutions have
been withdrawn thus far this year, leading a number of sustainable investment professionals to
observe that the quality of corporate dialogue has improved.
One of the most
important demonstrations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) requested of companies by
sustainable investors has been the publication of sustainability reports. Historically,
US-headquartered corporations have tended to lag behind their European counterparts in reporting on
sustainability issues. But in recent years, companies based in the US have made significant
The Governance & Accountability Institute reported this
week that 72% of companies listed on the S&P 500 index now publish sustainability reports. What
makes the number even more striking is the fact that as recently as 2011, only 19% of those
companies produced sustainability reports.
"We are seeing clear indications over the past
three years that senior corporate management understands the importance of adopting and
implementing strategies that reflect the rising interest of investors and stakeholders in corporate
sustainability,” Louis Coppola, Vice President of the Institute, said. “The S&P 500 companies in
the lead on disclosure and reporting are focusing much more now on the materiality of ESG
(environmental, social, and corporate governance) issues, and engaging with internal and external
stakeholders to determine the materiality of report content.”
“Along with the sheer volume
of corporate reporting increasing, we are seeing greater intensity of focus on what really matters
in the report,” he continued.