The actions companies are highlighting in these voluntary disclosures — from environmental stewardship to the businesses’ social impact — reflect how the companies are building long-term, broader value for multiple stakeholders. The disclosures vary widely in terms of depth and specificity and may include:
Overall sustainability commitment – Nearly 70% highlight their overall commitment to corporate sustainability, responsibility or citizenship, more than double the amount that did so in 2016. Some include details regarding how these efforts are governed at the board level, and most link to the company’s sustainability report or website for further information.
Environmental sustainability – Sixty-two percent highlight their related goals and progress around topics such as emissions reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energy, recycling and waste management, and water, as most applicable to the company’s core business.
Community engagement and social impact – More than half discuss their investments in the communities in which they operate (e.g., charitable giving, community partnerships and employee volunteer opportunities) and/or efforts to enhance the broader social impact of the business (e.g., privacy considerations for technology companies, access to medicines and efforts to address the opioid epidemic for health service companies, financing environmental solutions and investing in economically underserved areas for financial institutions).
Diversity and inclusion and other human capital initiatives – More than half are highlighting their commitment to workforce initiatives around people and culture. Progress related to pay equity and workforce diversity, as well as workforce training and development programs, are key themes of these disclosures.
The most successful disclosures tie the company’s environmental and social commitments to its core values and purpose, business and strategy, and ability to deliver long-term value.
Key board takeaway
Consider the proxy statement as an opportunity for communicating the company’s approach to corporate sustainability and citizenship. Brief, high-level disclosures can carry the message of the company’s commitments and key progress regarding environmental sustainability, people and culture, communities and the social good, and direct stakeholders to other resources for more information.