ESG disclosure: Your guide to understanding ESG reporting in 2023 and why it matters

In an era of transparency and accountability, investors, issuers, and the broader capital markets are demanding more from companies they invest in. In order to meet this demand, companies are turning to ESG reports as a way to disclose environmental and social risks that could have a negative impact on their business. More than 90 percent of S&P 500 companies now publish ESG reports in some form, as do approximately 70 percent of Russell 1000 companies

This article will explore what ESG disclosure and reporting is, why it’s important for investors and issuers alike, and how you can best understand this new standard.

What is ESG Disclosure and Reporting?

ESG reporting is the process by which companies evaluate and disclose the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that may affect their operations. Companies measure and disclose risks using a set of general indicators, called the sustainability framework. This framework includes three dimensions of sustainability: environmental performance, human resources, and governance. 

When companies report, they analyze their current practices against a standardized set of factors and indicate whether they meet, exceed, or fall short of each factor’s requirements. This standardized approach helps both investors and companies understand how a company’s actions stack up against best practices and can lead to improved decision-making. Investment and business operations are not the only areas that benefit from ESG reporting. Investors, lenders, law enforcement officials, and others also benefit from increased transparency by understanding the ESG risks that companies face.

Why Is ESG Disclosure and Reporting Important?

While many investors and companies already have a strong interest in corporate sustainability, there is a growing demand for more thorough reporting. Investors and lenders increasingly want to see a clear link between a company’s business practices and the environmental and social risks involved. This increased interest has led to increases in demand for ESG reporting across the industry. Increased demand for ESG reporting could lead to a number of positive outcomes for the industry. 

For example, reporting on ESG risks could lead to improvements in corporate policies, increased investment in green initiatives, and new business models that incorporate a more holistic approach to sustainability. In addition, as companies begin to incorporate ESG reporting into their processes, it is likely that reporting will evolve to meet the needs of a wider set of stakeholders. Already, standards related to gender, race, and inclusion are beginning to emerge.

What is an ESG Report?

An ESG report is a document that describes a company’s operations and management against a standardized set of factors. It provides investors and others with an in-depth look at a company’s ESG performance and compares it to best practices. The report might also include recommendations of how to improve performance. 

The report is structured as a series of articles that explain aspects of a company’s operations and management. It includes a description of a company’s products, services, and processes with information about their environmental impact, including any negative impacts. It also includes a discussion of a company’s human resource practices, including any negative impacts, and the company’s governance structure, including the criteria for directors’ and executives’ decisions and the controls used to manage these decisions.

The Benefits of ESG Disclosure and Reporting

Companies that integrate ESG disclosure and reporting into their process have the opportunity to improve their operations and create positive social impact for all stakeholders. This can result in increased profits, increased brand trust, and improved corporate governance. Besides, the ESG reports can help investors identify investments that are more sustainable and could provide returns that better align with the impact of their investment. For example, if a company is investing in oil infrastructure that has a negative impact on the environment, investors can better understand this risk and make an informed decision on whether to invest in that business.

How to Create an ESG Report

As the demand for ESG reporting increases, so too does the demand to quickly create a compliant report. Unfortunately, this creates a challenge for companies seeking to create a compliant report within defined deadlines. Start by defining the scope of your report and delving into the specifics of the company’s operations and management. 

Next, select the relevant factors that describe your company’s operations and management. For example, if you’re evaluating the company’s environmental performance, you might select the set of environmental indicators that are most relevant to your report. Finally, format your report and use the templates provided by ESG Consulting as they represent the industry’s best practices.

Common Deficiencies in ESG Reporting

As with any standard that requires companies to report their performance, there are certain shortcomings associated with ESG reporting that need to be addressed. While most companies are capable of creating reports that meet the industry’s standards, there are certain factors that are more prevalent in reports than others. Here are some of the most common deficiencies and challenges associated with ESG disclosure reporting which include: 

– The environmental factors that are reported are often not specific to a company’s operations. This means that even if a company has a negative impact on the environment, it could still be reported with a positive score because the company’s products are also environmentally friendly.

– Standardization: There is currently no globally accepted standard for reporting ESG information, which makes it difficult for companies to know exactly what information to report and how to report it. There is also currently no widely accepted method for verifying the accuracy and completeness of ESG data reported by companies.

– Data collection and management: Collecting and managing high quality, up to date data on ESG performance can be time-consuming and costly for companies.

– Materiality: It can be difficult for companies to determine which ESG issues are most material to their business and should therefore be reported on.

– Integration: Integrating ESG information into traditional financial reporting can be challenging, as the two types of information are often reported in different formats and with different metrics.

– Limited Resources: Smaller companies may have limited resources to devote to ESG reporting, making it more difficult for them to produce comprehensive and accurate reports.


Below are some of the most common questions we receive related to ESG disclosure and reporting. If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, please feel free to contact us.

What is the difference between an SRI and an ESG report? 

An SRI is a proactive strategy to address ESG issues and create value for stakeholders. An ESG report is a standard that reveals key information that describes a company’s operations and management against a standardized set of factors. 

What are the benefits of SRI?

SRI helps companies to track and manage their ESG risks, focus on opportunities and create value for stakeholders better. 

Why is ESG reporting important? 

ESG reporting is important because it allows companies to disclose information about their non-financial performance to stakeholders, such as investors, customers, and regulators. This information can be used to evaluate a company’s overall performance and to make more informed investment decisions.

What are the benefits of ESG reporting? 

The best benefit of ESG reporting is that it helps investors to identify investments that are more sustainable and can provide returns that better align with the impact of their investment.

What are the most commonly reported ESG topics?

The most commonly reported ESG topics include climate change, human rights, labour standards, and corporate governance.

How can companies ensure the quality of their ESG data?

Companies can ensure the quality of their ESG data by implementing internal controls, such as data validation procedures and by using third-party  providers who provide real-time ESG data like Permutable to verify the accuracy of their data.

What are the challenges of ESG reporting?

The challenges of ESG reporting include standardization, data collection and management, verification and assurance, materiality, integration, time-consuming, and limited resources.

How do I know if a company is reporting on ESG issues?

Companies typically report on ESG issues in their annual reports, sustainability reports, or through disclosure on specialized ESG reporting platforms.

Are there any regulations or guidelines that companies must follow when reporting on ESG issues?

While there is currently no single set of regulations or guidelines that companies must follow when reporting on ESG issues, many companies choose to follow frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) or the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Need more information? Get in touch to find out how our real-time ESG data can help you with your ESG disclosure and reporting