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Should corporate sustainability reporting be mandated?

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Dec 18, 2018

On December 18, 2018, the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, offered a debate on how corporate sustainability reporting should be mandated, and standardized by FASB and IASB, for it to be most useful for investors.

The debate was chaired by Lady Lynn de Rothschild, Founder and CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism. Speaking in favor of the resolution were Ms. Anne Simpson, Investment Director of CalPERS, Mr. Paul Druckman, Former CEO of the IIRC, and Mr. Ian Mackintosh, Former Vice Chair of the IASB. Speaking against the resolution were Mr. Tom Quaadman, EVP of the US Chamber of Capital Markets, Mr. Bob Herz, Former Chair of the FASB and Mr. Harvey Pitt, Former Chairman of the SEC.

The debate highlighted the difficulties in establishing standards for mandatory sustainability reporting. The FASB and the IASB are skilled accounting standards-setters but advise that they neither have the resources or background and skill sets for developing standards for sustainability reporting. Also, sustainability reporting is generally disclosed in the MD&A, rather than the audited financial statements. All of the speakers acknowledged the pioneering work of the SASB in this area, resulting in the world’s first set of industry-specific sustainability standards. However, these standards are currently voluntary, not mandatory, and are not yet widely adopted.

A Green Paper focusing on the arguments for and against the motion was released in preparation for the debate.

A recording of the debate is available on YouTube.

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