81% of S&P 500 Companies Published Sustainability Reports in 2015

G&A Institute’s 2016 Inaugural Benchmark Study Shows

New York, New York  — March 15, 2016  — In the fifth annual monitoring and analysis of S&P 500 Index® company reporting just completed by the Governance & Accountability Institute research team, the findings are that eighty one percent (81%) of the companies included in this important investment benchmark published a sustainability or corporate responsibility report in 2015.

 

The S&P Index is one of the most widely-followed barometers of the U.S. economy, and conditions for large-cap public companies in the capital markets.

 

As we entered year 2016, just 19% of the S&P 500 were not publishing sustainability reports. The practice of reporting by the 500 companies is now holding steady with minor increases year-after-year. The chart below represents the trends of S&P 500 sustainability reporting over the last five years:

G&A INSTITUTE RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Disclosure and reporting on the corporate sustainability journey has become the consistent, reliable clear norm for large-cap companies in the U.S. capital markets.   The S&P 500®  Index is the best single gauge for large-cap U.S. equities, capturing 80% of available market capitalization.   G&A Institute has analyzed the index company components' sustainability reporting activities for the past five years. 

 

G&A Institute charted the rapid and significant uptake in corporate sustainability reporting among the 500 companies -- over the years, sustainability reporting rose from just 20% of the companies reporting in 2011 to 81% in 2015.  This huge body of corporate reporting underscores the importance of setting strategies, measuring and managing ESG issues in response to growing stakeholder and shareholder expectations -- and in many cases, demands for such reporting, including information requests from major customers.

 

To put this in context G&A in tracking prior year(s) reporting found that:

  • in 2011, just under 20% of S&P 500 companies had reported;

  • in 2012, 53% (for the first time a majority) of S&P 500 companies were reporting;

  • by 2013, 72% were reporting — that is 7-out-of-10 of all companies in the popular benchmark;

  • in 2014, 75% of the S&P 500 were publishing reports.

 

Louis Coppola, EVP & Co-Founder of G&A Institute

Louis D. Coppola, Executive VP of G&A Institute, who designs and coordinates the annual analysis, notes:  "We continue to see very clear demonstrations of the U.S. corporate community's embracement of sustainability reporting.   Measuring, managing, and reporting on ESG - Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance issues has been established as a mainstream practice in both the corporate and investment communities.    Leaders increasingly understand the critical importance of adopting and implementing strategies, products, services, programs and initiatives that reflect the 21st century business environment, and the interest of investors and important stakeholders."

Also:  "Corporate reporters have also become more sophisticated in the disclosure and reporting activities, with an increased focus on using reporting concepts such as materiality, stakeholder engagement, comparability, balance, context, timeliness,  and reliability to make ESG data more strategically useful for decision making by both management and stakeholders including investors. "

Hank Boerner, Chairman & Co-Founder of the Institute

Hank Boerner, Chairman of the Institute, observed:  "As we continue to see a steady increase in corporate sustainability and responsibility reporting, we wonder what the thinking is in the non-reporting enterprises.  These companies are now clearly laggards in this important peer group (the S&P 500), which is a very important benchmark for institutional investors.  Are these companies not recognizing the significant range of benefits that accrue to their more sustainable peers?  Do they understand the rising expectations of stakeholders seeking more information about their company's environmental, social and governance performance?  At the least, the companies seem to be resistant to the demands of shareholders for more information about their ESG policies and performance."

The Missing Among Corporate Sustainability Reporters

This chart presents the number and percentage of companies from the sectors in our S&P 500 study that are choosing not to report on their sustainability opportunities, risks, strategies, actions, programs, and achievements implying no focus on sustainability with comparisons from 2014 - 2015. 

Governance & Accountability Institute's GRI Data Partner Report Analyst Research Team of talented interns contributed significantly to this research and we recognize and salute them here: