CSRWorks managing director Rajesh Chhabara (centre) sits in between Tim Mohin of GRI and Madelyn Antoncic of SASB at the Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit. Mohin and Antoncic clashed over whose standard was better. Image: Eco-Business By Robin Hicks
 
 
A bugbear of businesses, when it comes to sustainability reporting, is the plethora of standards they need to comply with to show stakeholders and stock markets that they are good corporate citizens.
 
But efforts to harmonise standards have taken a step back following a heated debate between the chief executives of two of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards at an event in Singapore this week.
 
 
At a panel session at the Asia Sustainability Reporting Summit on Wednesday, Tim Mohin, CEO of market-leading standard Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and Madelyn Antoncic, CEO of New York-headquartered Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), traded barbs over whose was the superior standard.
We don’t have enough time for a Darwinian contest to determine the standard fittest to survive.
Stefan Ullrich, director of sustainable finance, Paia Consulting
The contretemps took place a few weeks before the Corporate Reporting Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder platform involving GRI and SASB that aims to create consistency among reporting frameworks, is to publish a landmark study on how different players can work towards a single standard.
 
At the summit, Antoncic—a former executive at the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers who was appointed SASB’s CEO eight months ago—fired the first salvo, calling GRI too difficult for investors to understand and hard for companies to compare their performance with their peers.
 
Mohin countered that GRI is used by 75 per cent of the world’s largest companies and 80 per cent of big firms in Southeast Asia, where the non-profit opened a Singapore operation earlier this week.
 
Speaking to Eco-Business a day after the summit, Mohin said: “With those numbers, I don’t see how what SASB is saying can be true.”
 
He added: “When I first took this job [in 2017], I sat down with SASB and we agreed that competition between us is not helpful. We are both aiming for the same thing—to align capital with sustainable business practices—and the two approaches are complementary. That was the dialogue, up until yesterday. Now there’s been a change.”