S&P 100 and ESG Reporting
Thursday, April 29, 2021
The CAQ examined the most recent publicly available1 ESG data for S&P 100 companies. Here are the key takeaways:
- All companies had some ESG information available.2
- The vast majority of companies had this information outside of an SEC filing, typically in a standalone ESG report.
- 13% of S&P 100 companies received assurance from a public company auditing firm over some of their ESG information.
Read in depth to examine how many companies reported ESG information, what frameworks and standards were commonly used and if the company obtained assurance or verification over any of their ESG information.
ESG Reporting Frameworks and Standards
We examined how many companies referenced five commonly mentioned ESG reporting frameworks and standards – CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), Global Reporting Imitative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), The Task Force on Climate Change (TCFD) and Integrated Reporting (IR). We found that companies used these frameworks to varying extents, some companies fully adopted the framework or standard, some partially adopted, and others used the framework or standard as a reference when determining what information to include in their ESG reporting.
Assurance by Public Company Auditors
Third-party assurance from a public company audit firm can enhance the reliability of ESG information presented by companies to investors and other stakeholders. We found that 13% of the S&P 100 companies had assurance from a public company auditing firm over some of their ESG information. Leading companies that used public company auditors to provide assurance over certain aspects of their ESG information are Google, Starbucks, Coca Cola, Nike, Verizon, UPS, Johnson and Johnson, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Salesforce, Schlumberger and Kinder Morgan.
Scope of Assurance: The specific disclosures that company’s sought public company assurance over varied. Some companies just had assurance over select metrics related to greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and others had more extensive coverage over a wider range of ESG metrics. We used the following categories to describe the assurance coverage:
- Metrics solely related to GHG emissions,
- Metrics related to greenhouse gas emissions plus a select number of additional metrics (“GHG+”),
- Multiple metrics in their ESG report that related to various ESG topics (“multiple”), and,
- Select metrics related to a specific area that was not GHG (“few select other metrics”)
Assurance Standards: Public company auditors primarily used the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Attestation Standards (including AT-C section 105 Concepts to all attestation engagements, AT-C 205A examination engagements and AT-C section 210A review engagements). However, some public company auditors referenced the International Standard on Assurance Engagements 3000 (Revised) Assurance Engagements other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information (ISAE 3000) in addition to or in place of the AICPA attestation standards. Note that the chart below totals 12 as one of the attestation reports referenced both the AICPA and ISAE 3000 standards.
Level of Assurance: Of the companies that had assurance from public company auditors, most of them obtained limited levels of assurance over select information. One company obtained limited assurance over some metrics and reasonable assurance over other metrics and one company obtained reasonable assurance.
In addition to the eleven companies that had assurance from public company auditors over some of their ESG data, we found that seventy companies had assurance or verification provided by engineering or consulting firms (“other providers”) that were not CPA firms.
Assurance Scope: Most of the assurance or verification from other providers was solely related to GHG metrics, followed by GHG+, multiple metrics and other select metrics.
Assurance Standards: The most common assurance standard referenced by other providers was International Organization for Standardization 14064-3 Greenhouse gases — Part 3: Specification with guidance for the verification and validation of greenhouse gas statements (ISO 14064-3). These other providers also referenced AccountAbility’s AA1000 Series of Standards as well as their own assurance methodology which they commonly stated was based on ISAE 3000. None of the other providers referenced AICPA attestation standards.
Assurance Terminology: We observed that these other providers who were not public company auditors also used terminology such as “reasonable” and/or “limited” assurance in their reports. We also observed the use of the term “moderate assurance” in certain reports where the AA1000 assurance standards were used. The breakout of the assurance level referenced by these providers is depicted in the below chart:
- As of March 12, 2021.
- Most companies had released 2019 ESG information, some released 2020 ESG information, and very few companies depicted ESG information for a time period ranging earlier than 2019.