Navigating the Way to Sustainability

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

Source: Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.


 G&A Institute: 
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.



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.

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.


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:


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 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. 


2014 NR

2015 NR


Consumer Discretionary








Information Technology








Health Care








Consumer Staples




Telecommunications Services

















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:


  • Julia Casciotti
    College of William and Mary - BA, English and Environmental Policy
    Columbia University, completing MPH in Environmental Health Sciences , May 2016

  • Alexander Cohen
    Bentley University - BA, International Studies
    Baruch College - MBA, Sustainability and International Business, Graduated December 2015

  • Kristina Jette Mullen
    Boston University Questrom School of Business - B.S. Business Administration, Minor in Art History
    Simmons School of Management - MBA in Sustainability & Business Strategy, Graduated May 2015

  • Ashley Thomsen
    Arizona State University - BA Secondary Education
    W.P. Carey School of Business, completing BA Global Logistics Management, May 2016

  • Alvis Yuen
    NYU - BA, Biochemistry and Economics
    City College of New York, completing MS in Sustainability, December 2016

For more information on our GRI Data Partner Report Analyst Research Interns, please visit the-honor-roll.html

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
Founded in 2006, G&A Institute is a sustainability consulting firm headquartered in New York City, advising corporations in executing winning strategies that maximize return on investment at every step of their sustainability journey.  The G&A team helps corporate and investment community clients recognize, understand and address sustainability issues to address stakeholder and shareholder concerns.  G&A Institute is the exclusive Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in the USA, UK and Ireland.  A G&A team of six or more perform this pro bono work on behalf of GRI. Over the past 5 years, G&A has analyzed more than 5,000 sustainability reports in this role and databased more than 100 important data points for each of the five thousand reports.

G&A’s sustainability-focused services and resources include: counseling & strategies for the corporate sustainability journey; sustainability reporting assistance; thorough materiality assessments; stakeholder engagement;benchmarking; enhancing investor relations; sustainability communications; manager coaching, team building & training;  advice on third party awards, recognitions and index inclusions; issues monitoring & customized research.

*S&P 500®
According to S&P Dow Jones Indices / McGraw Hill Financial: “The S&P 500® is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large cap U.S. equities.  There is over US$7 trillion benchmarked to the index, with index assets comprising approximately US$ 1.9 trillion of this total. The index includes 500 leading companies and captures approximately 80% coverage of available market capitalization.”  The S&P 500 is a trademarked® property of S&P Dow Jones Indices, McGraw Hill Financial. Ticker: SPX

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Louis D. Coppola
Co-Founder, EVP & Chief Architect of Research Projects 
Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. 
Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14