Staff at the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) are working toward publishing a finalised series of amendments to the literature it inherited from the former Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) by the end of this year.
Speaking during a 16 March meeting, Greg Waters said the plan was to “launch the public comment period [by] late spring, early summer” and “post the kind of final versions of all these standards in the Fall prior to a winter publication, but by the end of the year”.
He added that an ad hoc committee of board members – referred to during the meeting as board advisors – was “actually reviewing a draft now that they’ll be voting on hopefully by the end of the month”.
The amendments are broadly editorial in scope and intended to make the US board’s work easier to use for international audience.
The ISSB’s general reporting standard International Financial Reporting Standard S-1, General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information, relies on cross-references to the SASB literature.
Responsibility for the former SASB standards passed to the ISSB with the merger of the Value Reporting Foundation with the IFRS Foundation in August 2022.
ISSB vice chair Sue Lloyd said it was important for the board to communicate to the outside world what the purpose of the amendments was and that its limited focus did not imply the board was reluctant to tackle wider issues such as climate change.
Staff described the purpose of the exercise as to “maintain and improve the SASB standards” – in particular where they address metrics addressing non-climate-related disclosures.
The board is expected to publish its own climate-related disclosure standard before the end of the first half of this year.
According to the staff, the amendments to the SASB standards will affect around 200 metrics.
One example cited by staff during the meeting and detailed in Appendix F of the meeting paper was swapping a reference to the US Food and Drug Administration for a reference to the work of the World Health Organization.
In order to make those changes to the metrics, staff have employed a five-step approach set out in paragraph 44 of the staff meeting paper.
The SASB’s mission focused on the development of industry-specific standards and metrics – both qualitative and quantitative – to enable companies to communicate with investors about the impact of ESG factors on their operating performance.
Critics of the SASB’s literature, however, say that it was developed with US capital markets in mind and is unsuitable for use by a wider global market.
Work on the updates to the standards has been carried out by the board’s staff and a discrete group of advisors comprising former SASB chair Jeff Hales, ISSB’s Lloyd and members Jenny Bofinger-Schuster, Verity Chegar, and Bing Leng.
Their decisions are subject to ratification by the whole board before they are released for public comment.
Staff told the meeting this process was analogous to the IFRS Interpretations Committee undertaking a project to amend an IFRS at the request of the International Accounting Standards Board.