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Sustainability Reporting Slowly Increases in China, Report Finds

One-third of  companies surveyed  in China share their sustainability initiatives with the outside world, illustrating some progress in the country to promote non-financial reporting, according to a report released by The Conference Board.

Potential regulatory changes requiring the presentation of certain sustainability metrics and a movement among companies towards greater transparency will likely drive disclosures rates upward, The Conference Board said.

The Conference Board’s Sustainability Matters 2013 report is a collection of previously published director notes centered around sustainability communication. The report, which summarizes findings from the Conference Board’s benchmarking report, also features new content, including an emerging trend among shareholders during proxy season and data on sustainability reporting in China.

While there has been a rise in sustainability reports in China, a general lack of experience and awareness of reporting standards still lingers, The Conference Board said. For example, only 5 percent of the sustainability or CSR reports issued in China in 2011 and filed in consulting company SynTao’s database had been audited by an independent third party.

The Conference Board report also found increasing shareholder requests over the past several proxy seasons for companies to publish sustainability reports. In 2008, there were nine proposals asking companies to develop a sustainability report, accounting for 5,1 percent of shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues. By 2012, the number of proposals had jumped to 14, representing 8.8 percent of resolutions on environmental and social issues.

The Proxy Preview 2013 report released last week found investors have filed 365 shareholder resolutions this year on environmental and social issues, with 38 percent of the proposals focusing on climate change, energy and corporate sustainability strategies. While political spending resolutions continue to dominate the agenda, totaling one-third of all proposals filed so far, climate and energy, other environmental issues and sustainable governance combined make up the next biggest chunk of the total.

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