90% of S&P 500 Index Companies Publish Sustainability Reports in 2019, G&A Announces in its Latest Annual 2020 Flash Report

G&A Institute announces the results of its annual S&P 500 sustainability reporting analysis. 90% of the S&P 500 published corporate sustainability reports, an all-time high!
Jul 16, 2020 10:00 AM ET

90% of S&P 500 Index Companies Publish Sustainability Reports in 2019, G&A Anno…

G&A Institute announces the results of its annual S&P 500 sustainability reporting analysis.
90% of the S&P 500 published corporate sustainability reports, an all-time high!

NEW YORK, July 16, 2020 /3BL Media/– For almost a decade, the team at Governance & Accountability Institute (G&A) has been closely tracking the trends in sustainability reporting and disclosure activities of an important universe of U.S. corporations: publicly-traded companies included in the S&P 500® index. These reports are also sometimes titled as responsibility, citizenship, or ESG reports.

This important universe of business enterprises represents more than 80% of the outstanding equity of the largest U.S. companies.  The large-cap S&P 500 benchmark is used by literally thousands of global investment community players for the selection of equities for their portfolios, by index managers, and by managers in a range of asset classes.

G&A’s annual research series began nine years ago with the analysis of sustainability reporting activities for publication year 2011, when we found just about 20% of the S&P 500 companies were publishing a sustainability report.

The volume of reporting has steadily increased each year since 2011 and the contents of the reports dramatically expanded over time. By 2012, more than half (53%) of the companies were publishing reports. That percentage grew to 75% by 2014 and to 86% in 2018. 

In the just-completed 2020 research, examining 2019 reporting activities, G&A determined that 90% -- 9-of-10 companies in the S&P 500 were publishing a sustainability report. 

The 2020 research report features a breakdown of non-reporters by sector, those utilizing commonly used frameworks and standards (GRI, SASB, TCFD), those aligning with the UN SDGs, and trends in external assurance and survey reporting (CDP, CSA/DJSI). 

An example of this year’s research findings includes:

  • 51% of the S&P 500 reporting companies use the GRI Standards framework
  • 14% of S&P 500 reporters presented alignment with SASB standards
  • 5% of S&P 500 reporters presented alignment with TCFD recommendations
  • 36% of S&P 500 reporters presented alignment with specific UN SDGs
  • 29% of S&P 500 reporters utilized external assurance for their environmental and/or social data
  • 65% of S&P 500 companies respond to CDP Climate Change

Click here to read the full report for more comprehensive reporting breakouts and details on the S&P 500 companies.

Louis Coppola, G&A’s Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, who has designed and managed all the annual analyses to date, explains: “We began this year’s research before the COVID-19 pandemic.  We were expecting to see significant growth in reporting by companies -- especially in response to exponentially increasing demand from investors -- and this is what we have found.  As the pandemic has unraveled, study after study has proven the value of ESG and sustainability as ESG investments outperformed the market during the crisis.  Through our research on the S&P 500 for the past 9 years, not only has sustainability reporting grown among the largest companies in the U.S., but it has also become more sophisticated, mature, and decision-useful for investors and other important stakeholders.  With these contexts in mind, we are very excited to see this year’s results.”

Hank Boerner, G&A’s Chairman, Chief Strategist & Co-Founder, adds: “Over our years of research, we have seen a steady expansion of reporting in response to important drivers. These drivers include peer pressure, increasing demand from investors and other important stakeholders for greater disclosure of the corporate ESG strategies, actions, and achievements.  This has led to a drive within the corporate sector to achieve industry leadership, gain a competitive advantage -- and very important, to excel in the competition for capital. We would ask the remaining 10% of non-reporters in the S&P 500 universe, what are you waiting for?”

Elizabeth Peterson, Senior Sustainability Analyst at G&A, who has been involved in the research since 2017, oversees the daily work of the effort, supervising the talented intern-analysts and team members involved.  She comments: “This year G&A’s annual analysis was elevated to the next level. Our team dove much deeper into our S&P 500 research, including examining the use of reporting standards and frameworks such as GRI, SASB, and TCFD. We were able to identify which sectors are outperforming and which sectors are lagging in the percentage of published sustainability reports. G&A also examined the 17 U.N. SDGs comprehensively, looking at how the GICS® sectors align with specific goals, the most popular SDGs for each sector, and which goals are most aligned throughout the entire S&P 500.

Each year we attract an outstanding class of intern-analysts who devote several months to carefully parsing the reports of public companies included in the S&P 500. We thank each of them for their time, passion, and dedication devoted to this research. They are outstanding professionals with a solid foundation in ESG research.

We believe the team’s findings on reporting trends for the publication year of 2019 will be welcomed by the investment community and the corporate sector, especially with the clarity of a much-enhanced presentation of the results.”

Governance & Accountability Institute proudly recognizes our research team of talented analyst-interns who made significant contributions to this study:

G&A Research Supervisor:  Elizabeth Peterson, Senior Sustainability Analyst

Team Leaders

  • Reilly Sakai, MBA – G&A ESG Analyst
  • Julia Nehring, MBA – G&A ESG Analyst

Honor Roll Analyst-Interns

  • Lama Alaraj, BA
  • Sarah El-Miligy, BA
  • Kelly Mumford, MSc
  • Sofia Yialama, MSc
  • Binyu Zhao, MPA

We also acknowledge contribution to the effort by supporting analyst-interns: Jesse Velazquez, BA and Yuyou Chen, BS. For more information on our GRI Data Partner Report Analyst Research Interns, click here.

To read the full report, go to: https://www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/flash-reports/2020-sp-500-flash-report.html

G&A Institute is a sustainability consulting and research firm headquartered in New York City, advising corporations and investors on executing winning strategies that maximize ROI at every step of their sustainability journey.

The G&A consulting team helps corporate and investor clients recognize, understand, and address sustainability issues to address stakeholder and shareholder concerns. The firm’s proprietary, comprehensive five-step strategic support program is designed to help organizations achieve sustainability leadership in their industry and sector.

G&A Institute is the Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the U.S.A., U.K., and the Republic of Ireland. The G&A team has performed this pro bono work for more than a decade – analyzing more than 9,000 sustainability reports to date and cataloging tens of thousands of important data points for these reports. The reports become part of the most comprehensive publicly available global sustainability reports database in the world, maintained by the GRI.

The S&P 500® is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large cap US equities. This measures the stock performance of approximately 500 large-cap companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges and is considered one of the best representations of the U.S. equity market performance. There is more than US$11 trillion indexed to or benchmarked to the index, which is owned by S&P Dow Jones Indices, a division of S&P Global. 

Louis D. Coppola
, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder
Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14
Email: lcoppola@ga-institute.com