Transparency and Disclosure


Disclose decision-useful information that includes both quantitative data and qualitative contexts.


Companies disclose sustainability information that is decision-useful to key stakeholder groups, including investors, employees, labor unions, customers and communities. Companies show the links, for both the short- and long-term, between material and salient sustainability issues and financial performance indicators (e.g. cost savings, revenue growth, etc.). Disclosure includes trended, comparable and financially relevant quantitative data for all material sustainability impact areas, as well as qualitative information to provide necessary and valuable context. 

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

McCormick utilizes the CDP framework to disclose the company’s financial risks related to climate change. Investors are increasingly calling for companies to provide detailed disclosure on the financial risks of climate change. Utilizing the CDP framework, McCormick outlines “reduced revenue from decreased production capacity” caused by severe weather events and changes in precipitation patterns as the greatest climate related financial risk facing the company. McCormick goes on to provide a dollar estimate for the potential financial harm these climate impacts could cause, as well as the management methods it is pursuing to lessen harm caused to both the company and its farmers. Along these lines, McCormick identified an opportunity to address these risks and build resiliency among its small holder farmers by collaborating with the Rainforest Alliance to implement Climate Smart Agriculture, leading it to set a goal for all of its farming partners to be Rainforest Alliance certified by 2025.

Bank of America explores the financial risks of climate change across a broad set of sectors and risks through the TCFD framework. Responding to a growing demand for decision-useful climate information by investors and financial regulators, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2017 released recommendations that provide a voluntary framework organizations can use to develop more effective climate-related financial disclosures. The Bank of America’s report, Responsible Growth and a Low Carbon Economy, stands out as a leading application of the TCFD framework. It uses a systematic mapping exercise to identify at-risk sectors based on attributes, including historical greenhouse gas emissions, the sensitivity of revenue to climate impacts, the technology and operations changes that are needed and the availability of insurance. The report also provides useful disclosure on how the bank is thinking about different kinds of climate risk described in the TCFD framework. This makes for the most comprehensive report so far by a U.S. bank, giving stakeholders a full view of the bank's portfolio rather than a narrow focus on specific sectors. The report is also candid about areas where further work is needed, providing a decision-useful picture of how Bank of America is moving toward its ultimate goal of aligning its business with the Paris Climate Agreement.

JetBlue releases joint SASB and TCFD report and underscores the value of sustainability for the business through its financial filings. In 2017, JetBlue became one of the first U.S. publicly traded companies to publish disclosures aligned to the SASB guidance. A year later, it was again among the first companies to release a joint SASB and TCFD report. In its 2019 report, the company used the SASB standards for the airline industry. In the report, which is easily accessible from the company’s investor relations website, JetBlue highlights the financial risks presented by a changing climate and steps it has taken to prepare for these risks, including the development of a scenario analysis. The company’s disclosure goes on to describe how JetBlue’s attention to and integration of ESG issues into its business helps the company not only protect, but also increase financial returns. The report provides an overview of JetBlue’s long-term strategy, which includes mitigating ESG risk, investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and technology and fueling the aviation talent pipeline of the future. This reporting is complemented by the company’s disclosure in its 2019 proxy statement, which specifies the top sustainability issues discussed by JetBlue's Governance and Nominating Committee in 2018, and the 2019 10-K, where climate change is specifically cited as a financial risk for the company.