Standardizing the standards

After a bit of a dormant period here on the blog, we’re hitting the ground running with an abundance of new posts highlighting student work, campus events, and alumni highlights, starting today.  Sent from Philadelphia, where new F&ES Master of Forestry student, Logan Yonavjak is covering the New Metrics in Sustainable Business conference, comes an argument for moving toward CSR standardization.  

NexThought Monday – Making Social, Environment Standards – Standard: The days of pure financial reporting for public companies are numbered

by Logan Yonavjak

The 13,500 publicly listed companies in the U.S. comprise $18.6 trillion in assets under management. Have you ever thought about the magnitude of the associated environmental and social impacts of these companies? No one set of metrics yet quantifies these impacts, but clearly they are material.

Here’s a quick financial history lesson. In response to the U.S. Great Depression, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was formed shortly after the passing of The Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act passed in 1933 and ’34. At this point, the SEC instituted the regular review of financial statements, beginning a long trend of government regulation over both the practices of accounting and investing.

The responsibility of actually developing accounting standards fell to a suite of actors until it finally landed on the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in 1973. Although a big deal at the time, most of us probably don’t remember a time before it was commonplace, and legally binding, to require U.S. public companies to disclose important financial information.

Now, what about reporting environmental and social impacts? Given that many corporations have deeper pockets than some countries, it seems necessary to understand the impacts these public companies are having on people and ecosystems from not only a broad societal standpoint, but also from a fiduciary responsibility and a risk/return perspective.

As it turns out, environmental and social reporting doesn’t even require a change in legislation. Since 1982 public companies have been required to disclose “material” information in their 10-k filing requirements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under a legal framework called the S-K. The problem is, no one has defined what that means, until now.

Keep reading the full post on

Also, to follow the conference, check out Logan’s ongoing tweets.

Coming to the blog this week – insights into the career of Jackie Roberts, MEM/MBA ’89 and Senior Director, Idea Bank, EDF Smart Power Program, as well as an interview with Vincent Stanley, Patagonia’s VP of marketing and communications!  

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One Response to Standardizing the standards

  1. Pingback: What is a “meaningful brand”? | Yale Center for Business and the Environment

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