The Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) sustainability reporting guidelines are finally out. But what do they mean for companies in Singapore?
The SGX has now published its long-awaited Sustainability Reporting Guide and Rule. They have certainly been a long time coming in Singapore, with SGX first announcing its intention for a framework back in 2013. The move has been welcomed by many as a way to move the sustainability agenda forward and bridge the gap between companies and investors.
Corporate Citizenship’s research has found that whilst the largest companies in Singapore all mention sustainability in their reporting – few have set targets. Beyond the largest firms, many companies on the SGX do not currently report at all. So there is clearly room for improvement. Things are going to change over the coming years, perhaps quite dramatically. But what do the rules and guidance mean for companies?
Flexibility is the name of the game
The SGX requirements are flexible in that they encourage companies to report their most material issues, instead of prescribing mandatory elements to report on.
The guidelines state that reports should include the following:
- The company’s most material environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors;
- practices and performance;
- the sustainability framework used;
- and a statement from the Board.
These components are the basis for most of the global reporting standards today, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). If a company excludes any of the above primary components, it must describe what it does instead with reasons for doing so. While SGX also does not advocate a particular sustainability reporting framework, the guidelines indicate that companies should carefully select an appropriate framework for their business model and industry.
Under SGX’s ruling, reports won’t necessarily require external assurance. However, companies who have been reporting for several years have found this process useful as an external verification of its report and data. Investor-driven indices, rankings, and procurement processes are reporting platforms in which assurance has helped insure credibility of information.
This will benefit companies, even in the short term
Sustainability reporting will be new to a number of companies. It may seem intimidating at the beginning, but our experience suggests that it can unlock a number of benefits. If executed well, the process of reporting can be a great tool for a business to identify key risks and opportunities. It can provide a focus for managers as well as external stakeholders. Reporting also compels the business to define its long-term vision. By instilling discipline to track performance, we find that clients often tell us that reporting helps them improve their efficiencies and engage employees.
On the external front, investors may be more likely to consider investing in a company which has identified its key ESG risks and long term plans. This gives the investors assurance that the company is taking care of its own long term growth and sustainability.
So what can we look forward to in the years ahead? The annual reporting of ESG information will enhance the visibility of SGX-listed companies among investors. It should improve communication with stakeholders. How companies rise to the challenges ahead will be something to watch with interest.
For questions on how Corporate Citizenship can help you or your company on your reporting journey, please contact our Singapore office at +65 6822 2203 or email Singapore@corporate-citizenship.com.
For information about our services, visit www.corporate-citizenship.com/service/reporting.