Oxford Union Debate on Mandated, Standardized Sustainability Reporting

Oxford, United Kingdom, 11th December, 2018

AccountAbility Board Member, Mr. Robert Herz, participated in a debate at the Oxford Union on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.

The motion of the debate was whether “corporate sustainability reporting should be mandated, and standardized by FASB and IASB, for it to be most useful for investors”. The following subject-matter experts participated in the debate:

 

  • In Proposition:
    • Paul Druckman, Former CEO of the International Integrated Reporting Council, IIRC
    • Ian Mackintosh, Former Vice Chairman, IASB
    • Sir Callum McCarthy, Former Chairman, Financial Services Authority, FSA
    • Anne Simpson, Investment Director, Global Governance, CAlPERS 

 

  • In Opposition:
    • Jonathan Bailey, Head of ESG Investing, Neuberger Berman
    • Robert Herz, Former Chairman of FASB and AccountAbility Board Member
    • Harvey Pitt, Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC
    • Tom Quaadman, Executive VP, US Chamber Center for Capital Markets

 

The debate was opened by the proposition, who argued that a set of mandatory standards has “preventative as well as value creation potential” (Ms. Anne Simpson).

In opposition to the motion, Mr. Herz, argued that IASB and FASB are not the right bodies to standardize reporting due to the limitations in scope and capacity of both institutions. Mr. Herz reinforced his stance by quoting the current Chair of IASB, Mr. Hans Hoogervorst, who in 2017 argued that “[IASB is not] equipped to enter the field of Sustainability Reporting. Widening the audience in scope of our work will most likely lead to a loss of focus and our identity”.

As an alternative, Mr. Herz urged investors to support the SASB standards, which “enable businesses to identify, manage and communicate financially-material sustainability information” (SASB, n.d.)

“I argue with you on the urgency, but the set of standards from a good standard setter exist. They have the same governing procedures, robust due process but specifically dedicated to this purpose and are fit for this purpose. You should rally around those, for those who really want to see the advancement of reporting on an urgent basis”. -Mr. Robert Herz, Oxford Union Debate, 2018

 

At the conclusion of the debate, there remained a divide between those in support of the motion and those opposed, but it was clear that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) sustainability disclosure will only become more critical as it becomes standardized and regulated by governing bodies.

As the Oxford Union debate took place, the same discussion was occurring at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where sustainability reporting was a critical focal point that will prompt further evolution of international reporting standards, practices and policies.