Transparency and Disclosure

Comparable and Verified

Use globally accepted disclosure standards and frameworks and seek external assurance to create comparable and verified disclosures.


Companies use globally accepted disclosure standards and frameworks, such as the GRI and SASB, to create focused and comparable disclosures for key stakeholders, and explain to stakeholder audiences why those standards are used to guide disclosure. Companies seek external assurance for material sustainability disclosures with the same level of rigor they do for financial disclosures.

Getting Started

Public disclosure is an opportunity for companies to communicate to stakeholders a narrative that outlines how sustainability risks and opportunities are recognized, managed and addressed.  For companies just getting started, the value of public disclosure is found in the process. Evaluating existing data collection systems and creating new ones, partnering with decisions-makers from across the company to gain the necessary support and buy-in, engaging with external experts and stakeholders to ensure relevance and completeness—each of these steps in the process bring invaluable experience, insights and improved understanding of not only a company’s risks and opportunities, but the business itself. 

To meaningfully demonstrate to stakeholders how the company is managing risk, reducing impact and planning for the future—companies must first determine who their most critical audiences are, what information they want and where they are going to find it. Stakeholder mapping exercises allow companies to prioritize data collection and focus on delivering the right information in the right places.

A strong foundation of disclosure also allows companies to be better prepared. Although sustainability disclosure is not mandatory in all parts of the world, governments and regulatory bodies are increasingly discussing the possibility of setting public disclosure requirements for certain environmental, social and governance factors.  Having a strong disclosure process in place will be an advantage if regulatory requirements related to sustainability disclosure are to change.

A good place to start is by using comprehensive and credible disclosure resources as a guide. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards and the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are two disclosure resources widely recognized as standards for comparable sustainability disclosure.  Investors value disclosures that are comparable for their decision-making processes and using a recognized and well-established sustainability disclosure standard helps to achieve this.

The GRI Standards covers a wide range of economic, environmental and social topics. Most companies that use the GRI also provide a GRI Content Index, which lets users of these reports, including investors, easily access information and compare performance across companies. The GRI’s comprehensive design supports the development of disclosures that meet the needs of a wide variety of investors and other stakeholders.

The SASB is an independent, private-sector standards setting organization focused on fostering high-quality disclosure of material sustainability information that meets investor needs. The SASB develops and maintains sustainability accounting standards for 79 industries in 11 sectors that help public corporations disclose financially material information to investors in a cost-effective and decision-useful format. SASB’s approach is materiality focused, evidence-based and market informed.

Once a company has created a disclosure based on one of the standard frameworks, additional disclosures specific to stakeholders or issues can be used to strengthen and hone the sustainability narrative.  

This section of the Ceres Roadmap 2030 identifies a list of resources to help companies further integrate sustainability into transparency and disclosure.

Disclose What Matters - This report analyzes the sustainability disclosures of the world's largest companies and can help companies bridge the gap and provide executable, relevant information to investors. 

Better Alignment Project – A project by the Corporate Reporting Dialogue focused on driving better alignment in the corporate reporting landscape and to make it easier for companies to prepare effective and coherent disclosures that meet the information needs of capital markets and society.

UN Action Platform: Reporting on the SDGs - The platform provides resources to help companies understand and report on the SDGs.

Issue specific disclosure resources (can be found with the Disclosing Progress tab under each Critical Impact Action):

Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) - The TCFD recommendations are a set of voluntary, consistent, climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers and other stakeholders.

CDP Guidance for Companies - The guidance provides resources to help companies complete the CDP Climate Change, Forests and Water Security Questionnaires.

The Accountability Framework - A set of common norms and guidance for establishing, implementing and monitoring ethical supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry  These norms reflect the consensus of a diverse coalition of respected conservation and human rights NGOs from around the world.

CEO Water Mandate Corporate Disclosure Guidelines - This guide offers a common approach to water management disclosure and puts forward metrics that can begin to harmonize practice and also provides guidance for defining what to report. This guide helps to minimize reporting burdens, allowing companies to allocate more time and resources to actively managing water.

United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) Reporting Framework - The UNGP Reporting Framework provides comprehensive guidance for companies to report on human rights issues in line with their responsibility to respect human rights, along with a concise set of questions any company should strive to be able to answer in order to know and show that it is meeting its responsibility to respect human rights in practice.

Companies in Action

Xylem uses the GRI framework and multiple third-party partners to verify its sustainability disclosure. Xylem sets a standard for comparability and validation in corporate disclosure by not only using the globally accepted GRI framework for its sustainability reporting, but by going beyond and partnering with outside organizations to validate the company's metrics. Xylem’s work with third-party verifiers lends credibility to its disclosure and provides opportunities for the company to align its approach with industry standards. In its most recent report, the company outlined its work with three data validators, including the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ERM Certification and Verification Services, and the World Business Council.

General Motors leverages leading sustainability disclosure standards to communicate impact across focus areas. As stakeholder expectations continue to evolve, globally accepted disclosure standards remain an important tool for bringing credibility and comparability to corporate actions. In 2019, General Motors continued to report on its sustainability efforts in alignment with the GRI Standards as well as the SASB guidelines, reporting on key metrics in the Transportation Standards. Looking to strengthen its disclosure of climate-related financial risks and opportunities, General Motors has begun using the TCFD framework in its sustainability report, complementing information being released through CDP. The company also reports against the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) principles and highlights the most relevant targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), pointing to specific examples of impact. The company’s latest report provides clear indices for each of these frameworks, which help stakeholders navigate the standards and assess the company’s performance.

Merck & Co releases sustainability report using the GRI and SASB standards. Companies are leveraging disclosure frameworks to communicate sustainability commitments, increasing access for stakeholders to comparable and credible information. To streamline efforts and foster comparability, international pharmaceutical company Merck & Co releases an ESG report that combines the GRI and SASB standards throughout the document, highlighting the applicable indicators under each section. The company has an interactive corporate responsibility website and also releases a stand-alone report covering trended data across key performance indicators.