GLOBAL - Listed and large private companies should integrate sustainability information throughout their annual report and accounts or explain why they are unable to do so, according to a coalition of institutions, including institutional investors.
The group, led by Aviva Investors, is calling on UN member states to develop a global policy framework that requires companies to include this information.
Paul Abberley, chief executive at Aviva Investors London, said: "Progressive companies around the world have come to understand that long-term value is enhanced by embedding long-term sustainability into their business strategy and by fully disclosing their progress to investors.
"As a long-term investor, we also recognise the positive impact embedding long-term sustainability into a business strategy can have on shareholder value."
Abberley said all corporate boards should be required to "consider the future sustainability of the firm they govern".
He added: "This should not only enhance long-term profitability and returns to investors, but also improve the quality of stock markets, increase macro financial stability and make a material contribution to the lives of those impacted by corporate activity.
"This is why we are calling on the United Nations member states to commit to develop policy on corporate sustainability reporting. Markets are driven by information. If the information they receive is short term and thin, then these characteristics will define our markets."
On behalf of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, Abberley asked UN member states to adopt a binding international commitment to develop a national policy, which requires the disclosure of sustainability information at the recent United Nations Private Sector Forum on Sustainable Energy for All, held in conjunction with the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly.
The coalition is calling on UN member states to adopt the global policy framework at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the 2012 Earth Summit, taking place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
The coalition believes the international policy framework should adhere to two overriding key principles.
Firstly, UN member states should develop national regulations that mandate the integration of material sustainability issues in the annual report and accounts.
Secondly, they should provide effective mechanisms for investors to hold companies to account on the quality of their disclosures, including, for instance, through an advisory vote at the AGM.
Ernst Ligteringen, chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, said: "Pioneering companies have proven the business case for disclosing sustainability data. Now is the time to ask the question 'why don't you report?'
"Member states have an opportunity to drive us toward a sustainable global economy by requiring that all large organisations report their sustainability impacts - either in a sustainability report or integrated with financial data - or explain their silence."
The coalition represents financial institutions, professional bodies, NGOs and investors with $1.6trn (€1.2trn) in global assets under management.
It currently includes organisations such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, CA Cheuvreux, Generation Investment, Global Reporting Initiative and Hermes.