An Overview of ESG Frameworks and Standards

When it comes to ESG frameworks and standards, there is no one single global framework or set of standards that companies need to adhere to. Rather, multiple frameworks and standards exist, each with their own unique requirements, purposes and target audience. Moreover, many of these frameworks and standards have some degree of overlap and may cover regulatory and legal requirements that vary across many jurisdictions. Regardless, all frameworks and standards aim to provide guidance on how ESG factors may be measured, assessed or reported. Although ESG-related themes have been a point of focus for many oilfield services (OFS) companies for many years – such as Health and Safety which is of paramount importance to the industry – companies have stepped up their efforts to systematically identify, measure and report on ESG performance to their stakeholders. Almost all publicly-traded oilfield services companies have lengthy sections on ESG including sophisticated and detailed performance scorecards and ESG or sustainability reports.

Six of the most widely-used frameworks are discussed below (in alphabetical order):

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. Each year CDP supports thousands of companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their risks and opportunities on climate change, supply chain, water usage/security and forestry management. Companies can make disclosures in response to a request from an investor, a customer, or both, or may voluntarily disclose if they wish. CDP gathers information about each entity via a detailed questionnaire and then produces a score for the entity using its own scoring criteria. CDP focuses on environmental-related topics and does not directly cover the Social and Governance aspects of ESG.

Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB): The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) is an international consortium of business and environmental NGOs that has set forth a framework for companies to report environmental and climate change-related information in their mainstream reports, such as annual reports, 10-K filing, or integrated report. The CDSB was founded at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2007. The organisation aims to enable companies to report environmental information with the same rigour as financial information in order to provide investors with decision-useful information to ensure resilient capital markets. The framework contains Guiding Principles and Reporting requirements for companies, such as governance, sources of environmental impacts, outlook, and assurance. Entities who should consider CDSB’s framework include investors, analysts, companies, regulators, stock exchanges and accounting firms. Similar to CDP, CDSB focuses on environmental-related topics and does not directly cover the Social and Governance aspects of ESG.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was founded in Boston in 1997 with the aim to create the first accountability mechanism to ensure companies adhere to responsible environmental conduct principles, which was then broadened to include social, economic and governance issues. GRI provides business and other organizations with a common language to communicate their impacts on issues such as the environment, corruption, health and safety and labour relations. Unlike the CDP and CDSB, GRI’s standards covers all facets of ESG. A growing number of stock exchanges and regulators around the world reference or require use of the GRI Standards for sustainability (or ESG) reporting by listed companies. GRI publishes a set of universal standards (the GRI 100 series) as well as topic-specific standards (GRI 200: Economic, GRI 300: Environmental, GRI 400: Social). Many publicly-traded oil and gas companies report ESG performance using GRI standards. In 2021, GRI expects to release its first Sector Standards Project for Oil, Gas, and Coal.

International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC): The IIRC is a global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard setters, the accounting profession, academia and NGOs. The coalition promotes communication about value creation, preservation and erosion as the next step in the evolution of corporate reporting. The IIRC publishes the International <IR> Framework that establishes the Guiding Principles and Content Elements that govern the overall content of an integrated report, and explains the fundamental concepts that underpin them. The primary purpose of an integrated report is to explain to providers of financial capital how an organization creates, preserves or erodes value over time. The <IR> Framework takes a principles‑based approach and provides questions and guidance that companies should ask/follow as they prepare reports for end-users. The <IR> Framework’s scope of information is broader than the CDP and CDSB as it covers ESG content for both tangible and intangible assets.

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB): The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is an independent non-profit organization that sets standards to guide the disclosure of financially material sustainability information by companies to their investors. SASB Standards identify the subset of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues most relevant to financial performance in each of 77 industries. SASB Standards are designed for communication by companies to investors about how sustainability issues drive long-term enterprise value.

SASB uses its own Sustainable Industry Classification Systems (SICS) to group similar companies and industries based on their sustainability-related risks and opportunities. Companies are categorized within one primary category, even if they operate across many. The thematic sectors are: Consumer Goods; Extractives & Minerals Processing; Financials; Food & Beverage; Health Care; Infrastructure; Renewable Resources & Alternative Energy; Resource Transformation; Services; Technology & Communications; and, Transportation.

Oil and gas producers and services companies fall within the Extractives & Minerals Processing category which has four relevant sub-sectors: Exploration & Production, Midstream, Refining & Marketing and Services (i.e., Oilfield services).

The Standards themselves follow a hierarchy as follows: There are five main dimensions, each of which has corresponding General Issue categories. Within each category, there are Disclosure Topics and specific accounting metrics.

Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was established in December 2015 by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) of the G20 to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to lenders, insurers, investors and other stakeholders. In 2017, the TCFD released climate-related financial disclosure recommendations designed to help companies provide better information to support informed capital allocation. These disclosure recommendations are structured around four thematic areas that represent core elements of how organizations operate: governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets.

In 2020, TCFD-based reporting became mandatory for all asset owners and managers signed on to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is the world’s largest investor network on sustainable investing.


In September 2020, CDP, CDSB, GRI, IIRC and SASB co-published a shared vision for more comprehensive reporting and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal, which can be viewed at https://www.cdp.net/en/articles/media/comprehensive-corporate-reporting

In November 2020, IIRC and SASB announced their intent to merge into a new unified organization named the Value Reporting Foundation.

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Last updated: March 1, 2021