Corporate performance indicators crucial for economic development

03 November 2017

Experts meet in Geneva from 1-3 November, to discuss the latest issues in international standards of accounting and reporting, including environmental and social corporate governance disclosure.

The way companies around the world measure such information as the revenues they generate, what they spend on research, who sits on their boards and even the amount of waste products they recycle is fast becoming a hot topic in global efforts to reduce poverty, combat climate change and boost economic growth, according to experts gathered in Geneva this week.

At stake was a common set of core baseline indicators which aligns corporate reporting with the aims and targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by the global community in 2015 and which must be met by 2030.

Underlining the principle that improvements are difficult to make unless they can be measured, participants at the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR), facilitated by UNCTAD, debated a set of economic, environmental, social and institutional indicators which can guide corporate behavior and performance in alignment with achieving the SDGs.

“The SDG agenda requires further efforts towards improvement of quality and comparability of corporate reporting on sustainability issues to ensure that companies can provide useful and reliable data on their SDG-related performance and to enable countries to gather such information from companies in a consistent and cost-effective manner to assess the private sector contributions towards the SDG implementation,” UNCTAD’s Director of Investment and Enterprise James Zhan said, on behalf of UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, during the meeting’s opening session on Wednesday.

The core indicators proposed to the meeting, which closed on Friday, 3 November 2017, were grouped into four areas:

  1. Economic, including revenue and/or (net) value added, payments to the government, new investment/expenditures, community investment, R&D expenditures, and local supplier/purchasing programmes

  2. Environmental, including the sustainable use of water, waste management, greenhouse gas emissions, chemicals (including pesticides and ozone depleting substances), energy consumption

  3. Social, including gender equality, R&D, human capital, employee health and safety, coverage of collective agreements

  4. Institutional, including corporate governance disclosures, donations to community projects, anti-corruption practices

Mr. Zhan told the meeting: “In the globally agreed time frame for achieving the SDGs, we are already at a point where countries are coming forward on a voluntary basis to gauge their progress, including with regards to the contribution of the private sector. 

“It is my hope that in the coming few years, we will also have a growing number of enterprises reporting on their inputs towards the attainment of the SDGs and your work on a common set of the SDG indicators will provide a useful tool to accelerate this process.”

ISAR assists developing countries and economies in transition in the implementation of best practices for accounting and corporate governance. The objective of such initiatives is to enhance the investment climate and promote sustainable development and financial inclusion. ISAR aims to achieve this through an integrated process of research, intergovernmental consensus building, information dissemination and technical cooperation.

Mr. Zhan also announced that ISAR marks its 35th anniversary with a special session during the World Investment Forum from 22-25 October 2018.