Transparency and Disclosure

Stakeholder Relevant

Ensure sustainable business strategies, action plans and related performance data are easily accessible and relevant to key stakeholder groups.


Companies make disclosure of their sustainable business strategies, action plans and related performance data easily accessible to all of their key stakeholder groups. Key stakeholders are identified using stakeholder mapping processes that enable companies to evaluate stakeholders, analyze engagement strategies and determine the depth of engagement and disclosure necessary for specific stakeholder groups. Companies then present stakeholder-relevant information in approachable ways, offering digital content that allows a wide range of users equitable access, including using multiple languages and through a variety of communication platforms. 

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

Nasdaq launches platform to simplify and streamline sustainability reporting for public companies. In a quest to increase transparency in the market, a plethora of disclosure setting bodies are providing guidance to companies on what to disclose and where. This abundance of standards can be overwhelming and take too much time from companies trying to determine what is relevant and get the right information in the right platforms. Nasdaq has designed a platform to enable corporate clients to streamline the process of gathering and submitting sustainability data and navigate disclosure frameworks efficiently. Looking to address survey fatigue, the service, released in early 2020, allows companies to input the sustainability information into the platform so that it can then be spread out into the different standard setting bodies and rating agencies. The platform supports leading reporting frameworks, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), ISS, MSCI, Robecco SAM, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Sustainalytics and the Task Force of Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), among others. The company notes that, as the product matures, it will allow Nasdaq to measure benchmarks and analyze trends from reporting organizations.

PepsiCo articulates water-related impacts to investors in its financial fillings. Proactive disclosure of emerging risks and opportunities helps investors understand issues that may become material in the future and illuminates how companies are responding. Companies continue to explore different avenues to make this information decision-useful and accessible to investors. In its 2019 financial filing, PepsiCo identified the potential adverse impacts that water scarcity can pose for the business. Higher production costs and investments in water efficient technologies could compromise the company’s business and financial performance. Further, failing to maintain high ethical, social and environmental practices (such as failing to act responsibly with respect to water use, human rights in the supply chain or public health or community impacts) could also hurt the company’s reputation and brand image. Water scarcity thus poses a double risk: not only can a lack of water negatively affect the company’s business operations and finances, a failure to be water efficient can also adversely affect consumer perceptions of its brands.

Salesforce innovates sustainability reporting platform to boost efficiency. Collecting sustainability information for reporting purposes is a time consuming and cumbersome process for most companies. Looking to address this problem, Salesforce turned to its own business capabilities to develop a solution that would allow it to shift to a more efficient and timely system. In the fall of 2019, Salesforce team launched Sustainability Cloud, a platform for quickly tracking, analyzing and reporting reliable environmental data. The system allowed the company to align its sustainability and financial timelines, so that it could seamlessly combine verification processes and embed the latest information in financial filings. Inspired by the impact the platform created for Salesforce own process, the company launched Salesforce Sustainability Cloud as a product that partners could use in their own companies to strengthen their reporting systems.