The ESG & Sustainability world is filled with acronyms. In recent years, regulatory developments, investor demand and public awareness have brought environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations to the forefront of the corporate agenda.
Alongside government regulation, a wide range of voluntary reporting frameworks has emerged to help companies report on their sustainability data, each with a different audience focus, disclosure requirement and methodology.
Our team of industry professionals has put together this page which covers the difference between Frameworks and Standards, plus a summary of all the common ones, to help you make the right decision for your business needs.
Frameworks are looking to provide principles and guidance for how information is structured and presented in reports.
Standards are about ensuring granularity, reliability and comparability of topics for stakeholders, investors and corporates.
List of Key Frameworks
The Financial Stability Board (FSB) established the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2015 to review how the financial sector could take account of climate-related issues. The TCFD’s subsequent 11 recommendations focused on voluntary disclosure of climate-related financial information surrounding:
- Risk Management
- Metrics and Targets
The recommended disclosures are in particular used to report on climate-related risks and opportunities as well as scenario analysis, both of which are aimed to help lenders, insurers and investors obtain decision-useful information on a company's resilience to climate change. Equally, this encourages reporting companies to identify risks, better understand future climate scenarios and create robust strategies for adaptation.
The United Nations Global Compact is a non-binding United Nations pact to encourage businesses and firms worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and to report on their implementation. The UN Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses, stating ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Under the Global Compact, companies are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society. Cities can join the Global Compact through the Cities Programme.
The UN Global Compact is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative with 13000 corporate participants and other stakeholders over 170 countries with two objectives: "Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world" and "Catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)". Moving forward, the UN Global Compact and its signatories are deeply invested and enthusiastic about supporting work towards the SDGs.
PCAF is a global partnership of financial institutions that work together to develop and implement a harmonized approach to assess and disclose the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with their loans and investments.
The harmonized accounting approach provides financial institutions with the starting point required to set science-based targets and align their portfolio with the Paris Climate Agreement. PCAF enables transparency and accountability and has developed an open-source global GHG accounting standard for financial institutions, the .
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015, are a set of 17 goals set out by the United Nations General Assembly to be reached by 2030. The goals are aimed at resolving complex economic, social and environmental issues at a global level as listed below:
The goals are broad in scope and interdependent, and each goal is split out into 169 targets, and 232 unique indicators (up to 3 per target) as a measure of progress. Most companies chose to focus efforts on a few select goals based on materiality and impact.
CDP is a non-profit organisation, established in 2000, which provides questionnaires for companies, cities, states and regions to report on up to three of the following sustainability categories:
- Climate Change
The annually updated questionnaires are aimed at disclosers to provide qualitative and quantitative information to their stakeholders covering governance, policy, risk and opportunity management, environmental targets and strategy, as well as climate-related scenario analysis.
CDP also includes a supply chain module as well as sector-specific questions aimed at high-impact sectors such as coal, oil and chemical producers. Financial services reporting to CDP can also easily report on TCFD’s recommendations as these have been integrated within the climate change questionnaire.
Principles for Responsible Investment is a multinational network of investors working together under the auspices of the United Nation. Its objective is to assist its signatories in making it easier for investors to incorporate sustainability issues into their ownership decisions and practises. Signatories aid in the creation of a more resilient international financial system by putting these principles into practise.
The Principles provide a framework of potential activities for integrating environmental, social, and corporate governance problems into investment processes across asset classes. Every organisation's investment strategy, methodology, and resources must be considered while designing a responsible investment process. The Principles are made to be consistent with the investing preferences of sizable, diversified institutional investors working within a typical fiduciary framework.
United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a partnership between UNEP and the global financial sector to mobilise private sector finance for sustainable development. UNEP FI works with more than 400 banks, insurers, and investors and over 100 supporting institutions – to help create a financial sector that serves people and planet while delivering positive impacts. They aim inform and enable financial institutions to improve people’s quality of life without compromising that of future generations. By leveraging the UN’s role, UNEP FI accelerates sustainable finance.
The UNEP Statement of Commitment by Financial Institutions on Sustainable Development was the original backbone of the Finance Initiative when it was created in the wake of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. By signing up to the Statement, financial institutions openly recognized the role of the financial services sector in making our economy and lifestyles sustainable and commit to the integration of environmental and social considerations into all aspects of their operations.
The Equator Principles (EP) are intended to serve as a common baseline and risk management framework for financial institutions to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks when financing large infrastructure and industrial Projects. The EP apply globally, to all industry sectors and to five financial products:
- Project Finance Advisory Services
- Project Finance
- Project-Related Corporate Loans
- Bridge Loan
- Project-Related Refinance, and Project-Related Acquisition Finance
Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) implement the 10 Equator Principles through their internal environmental and social risk management policies, procedures and standards in order to comply with the EP. EPFIs may (at their own discretion) choose to utilise the EP for additional financial products outside the scope of the EP. The 10 EPs include:
- Review & Categorisation
- E&S Assessment
- Applicable E&S Standards
- E&S Management System & EP Action Plan
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Grievance Mechanism
- Independent Review
- Independent Monitoring & Reporting
- Reporting & Transparency
WBCSD is a global, CEO-led community of over 200 of the world’s leading sustainable businesses working collectively to accelerate the system transformations needed for a net zero, nature positive, and more equitable future.
Executives and sustainability leaders from business and elsewhere are engaging to share practical insights on the obstacles and opportunities the world is currently facing in tackling the integrated climate, nature and inequality sustainability challenge.
WBCSD member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. Since 1995, WBCSD has been positioned to work with member companies along and across value chains to deliver impactful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.
List of Key Standards
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a global independent organization, established in 1997, providing free Sustainability Reporting Standards (GRI Standards) which aim to standardise the way companies report on a wide range of ESG topics for better accuracy and comparability. Unlike many other frameworks, GRI does not have a prescriptive scoring process and instead focuses on transparency and stakeholder engagement.
The GRI Standards are split into Universal Standards and Topic-specific Standards. The former is applicable to all companies and provides guidance on reporting contextual information and management of material topics. The latter is used to report on specific disclosures for material issues split out into Economic, Environmental and Social topics.
EFRAG was established in 2001 and its mission is to serve the European public interest by developing and promoting European views in the field of financial reporting and ensuring these views are properly considered in the IASB standard-setting process and in related international debates. EFRAG ultimately provides advice to the European Commission on whether newly issued or revised IFRS meet the criteria in the IAS Regulation for endorsement for use in the EU, including whether endorsement would be conducive to the European public good.
In 2018, EFRAG launched the European Corporate Reporting Lab. The European Lab stimulates innovation in the field of corporate reporting in Europe by identifying and sharing good practices.
Established in 1973, the FASB is the independent, private-sector organization that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards for public and private companies and not-for-profit organizations that follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
The FASB is recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission as the designated accounting standard setter for public companies. FASB standards are recognized as authoritative by many other organizations, including state Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
The FASB develops and issues financial accounting standards through a transparent and inclusive process intended to promote financial reporting that provides useful information to investors and others who use financial reports. The FASB comprises seven full-time board members that are appointed by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) Board of Trustees.
The IFRS Foundation Trustees announced the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) in 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow. The ISSB aims to develop standards that result in a high-quality, comprehensive global baseline of sustainability disclosures focused on the needs of investors and the financial markets.
The intention is for the ISSB’s standards to cover important sustainability topics (environmental, social, governance—ESG) on which investors want information. It will begin with climate, due to the urgent need for information on climate-related matters. It is also the intention that the ISSB will develop both thematic and industry-based requirements.
The ISSB’s intention is to build on the work of existing investor-focused reporting initiatives—including the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the Value Reporting Foundation’s Integrated Reporting Framework and SASB Standards, and the World Economic Forum’s Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics—to become the global standard-setter for sustainability disclosures for the financial markets.
The IASB is an independent group of experts with experience in setting accounting standards, in preparing, auditing, or using financial reports, and in accounting education. Broad geographical diversity is also required. The IFRS Foundation Constitution outlines the full criteria for the composition of the IASB, and the geographical allocation can be seen on the individual profiles.
IASB members are responsible for the development and publication of IFRS Accounting Standards, including the IFRS for SMEs Accounting Standard. The IASB is also responsible for approving Interpretations of IFRS Accounting Standards as developed by the IFRS Interpretations Committee (formerly IFRIC).
Members are appointed by the Trustees of the IFRS Foundation through an open and rigorous process that includes advertising vacancies and consulting relevant organisations.
In between - Some organisations tend to do both
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation aiming to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.
Together with governments, policy makers and citizens, OECD works on establishing evidence-based international standards and finding solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. From improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion, OECD provides a forum and knowledge hub for data and analysis, exchange of experiences, best-practice sharing, and advice on public policies and international standard-setting.
IFC is a large global development institution, founded in 1956, focused on the private sector in developing countries. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, aims to advance economic development and improve the lives of people by encouraging the growth of the private sector in developing countries.
IFC intends to achieve this by creating new markets, mobilising other investors, and sharing expertise. Their work supports the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
IFC’s Core Values include:
Greenstone’s Frameworks module, part of Greenstone’s Enterprise sustainability reporting software solution, allows you to meet the reporting requirements of global sustainability reporting frameworks and create further CSR and ESG metrics required to include in your data gathering and reporting.
As a result, you’ll be able to save significant time and costs in developing your reports compared to offline processes.
The Frameworks module enables you to:
- Streamline reporting - collect data once and use it for multiple frameworks
- Meet requirements of global ESG and sustainability reporting frameworks e.g. CDP, GRI, SASB, TCFD, DJSI and ISO
- Manage customer and investor requests and custom KPIs alongside frameworks data so that all company ESG data lives in one place
- Provide transparency to consumers, investors and other stakeholders
Discover some of the main key features of the Frameworks module and learn more about how our clients use it in their sustainability reporting. Continue reading here.
Visit our Frameworks & Standards content library aiming to keep you informed with the latest industry updates and learn more about the available sustainability and ESG frameworks and standards to support your company's reporting.