Sustainability Reporting: Start With the Regulators?
More companies are showing interest in sustainability reporting, and do not be surprised if integrated reporting, in which financial and sustainability metrics are disclosed in one report, gains traction this coming decade. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now issuing guidelines advising companies on how to disclose climate change-related matters, and the recent tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s lack of transparency certainly adds to the argument in support of greater transparency and sustainability reporting. The political environment in the US is toxic right now, and there is a chance that California's AB32 could be repealed, but that does not mean regulations with more teeth will not occur down the road. But if government agencies are going to require industries and companies that they regulate to offer more disclosure, perhaps these agencies should . . . issue reports so that their vendors, employees, and of course, the taxpayers, understand the impact these agencies are having in their communities? Let’s start with the SEC. It is a relatively small agency as far as US federal government agencies go, but they should not be immune to the rules that they require public companies to follow. Here are some questions I have for the SEC:
- How much money do they spend on outside consultants (on work that its own employees could do)? How many “interns” do they hire?
- What is their travel budget and how many conferences, symposia, and other meetings do SEC employees attend in the US and abroad? And do they offset that travel?
- That’s great they offer advice on climate change disclosure—but what are they doing to make their offices more energy efficient? Are they encouraging staff to take public transport?
- Almost all SEC forms are submitted electronically . . . so in what kind of shape is their IT infrastructure?