ISSB to launch first two sustainability standards by June

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has confirmed that it will issue its first two finalised frameworks by the end of June, with an expectation that the first corporate reports aligned with these frameworks will be issued in 2025.

ISSB to launch first two sustainability standards by June

Members of the ISSB gathered in Montreal, Canada, last week, to agree on the technical content of its initial standards following consultations in 2022. The Board is focusing on climate-related reporting in the first instance but its first two standards – IFRS S1 and S2 – will also cover other sustainability-related risks and opportunities.

IFRS S1 is designed to apply globally, to corporates in all sectors. It has been described as the “core baseline” of sustainability reporting, attempting to better unify disclosures on factors such as waste and emissions. It also sets out how companies can integrate reporting, linking sustainability-related and financial information.

IFRS S1 also sets out plans for companies to disclose all material sustainability-related risks and opportunities.

IFRS S2, meanwhile, is more detaied in regard to specific topics – particularly climate mitigation and climate adaptation. It is designed to build on existing disclosure frameworks in this field, chiefly the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  

While the EU is proposing mandatory “double materiality” impact reporting for big businesses – imploring them to report on their impacts on people and the environment, plus the risks and opportunities that external changes could bring – the ISSB is taking a different approach. Its chief focus at present is enterprise value, which entails getting a deeper understanding of the link between sustainability and company valuation.

“We responded to capital market and G20 demand for a common language of investor-focussed, sustainability-related disclosure, working diligently to deliver standards that fulfil the global baseline,” said ISSB chair Emmanuel Faber.

The ISSB is expected to issue IFRS S1 and S1 by the end of the second quarter, making June the likely issuance date. It is intending to make the standards effective from January 2024, meaning that we will likely see the first corporate reports aligned with the standards in 2025.

Voluntary adoption will be likely in the first case, and some nations and regions may opt for mandatory disclosures in time.

“Given [that] sustainability disclosure is new for many companies globally, the ISSB will introduce programmes that support those applying its Standards as market infrastructure and capacity is built,” the Board said in a statement. But it acknowledged that, in some markets like the EU, disclosure is less new – so there is a need to align with and streamline existing standards.

Commenting on the news, KPMG’s global head of audit Larry Bradley said: “The proposed effective date of 1 January 2024 is ambitious, but – importantly – it’s aligned with the EU timetable, so some companies may adopt on this date regardless of local requirements. It still remains for jurisdictions to decide whether to enforce this date. But the transition provisions, such as not requiring Scope 3 GHG emissions reporting in the first year of adoption, should smooth the path for companies.

“The good news is that companies are going to be explicitly allowed (but not required) to use metrics from GRI and ESRSs where they are useful to investors and there is no equivalent IFRS sustainability standard. This demonstrates a level of pragmatism and a keen awareness of the need to balance cost and benefit for as many companies as possible. However, companies already reporting under GRI won’t be able to simply cut and paste swathes of disclosures, because they will need to apply the ISSB’s investor-focused materiality lens. For companies reporting under multiple frameworks, this will make reporting less challenging.”

The ISSB was first proposed by the not-for-profit International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation) in early 2021, and launched later that year. Its aim is to unify disclosures from corporates, helping investors and other stakeholders to properly compare their sustainability performance and related risks. One year on from its formal launch, in November 2022, CDP confirmed that it will incorporate IFRS S2 into its platform.

Related feature: Why harmonising climate disclosure standards will be crucial in 2023 

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For example, Sylvester Bamkole from CDP will be appearing at 4.20pm on 1 March as part of a seminar on ‘how to create a winning sustainability report’, chaired by former International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) chief execurive Richard Howitt.

Also on 1 March, we’re hosting a briefing on ‘unscrambling the alphabet soup of ESG reporting’; a case study on Seventh Generation’s sustainability disclosures and a panel on ‘navigating the wild west of ESG standards’.

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