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Sustainability Board Launches First Sector Standards, for Healthcare

SASB logoThe Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has released its first set of provisional, industry-specific standards, targeting the healthcare sector.

SASB’s provisional standards are available for six industries in healthcare: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment, healthcare delivery, health care distributors and managed care. The standards address the environmental, social and governance issues likely to be material for companies in these industries. Issues addressed include resource management, pharmaceutical water contamination, drug safety and side effects, ethical marketing, affordability and fair pricing, managed care price performance and safety of clinical trial participants, SASB says.

The organization has been developing guidance for 10 sectors in all. In the next few months it plans to release draft standards for the financial sector, followed by technology and communications, according to Bloomberg, which is one of SASB’s backers.

SASB’s standards development process includes research supported by Bloomberg technology, data and analytical tools; multi-stakeholder industry working groups; a public comment period; and review by an independent standards council comprised of experts in standards development, securities law, investment, environmental law, metrics and accounting.

The working groups for the healthcare sector – which included 127 survey responses – represented publicly traded companies with more than $800 billion market capital and investment firms with more than $952 billion in assets under management. Working group members include representatives from Baxter, Cleveland Clinic, J&J, Kaiser Permanente, Pfizer, Merck, Novo Nordisk, AllianceBernstein, Breckinridge Capital Advisors, Calvert Investment and USB Securities.

SASB is encouraging corporations to begin using the provisional standards, which are designed for disclosure in the Form 10-K, 20-F and other required SEC filings.

The SASB announced plans to set sustainability standards in October last year. The non-profit group, whose backers include Generation Foundation, Metanoia Fund and Rockefeller Foundation, launched with the goal of standardizing corporate reporting of the social and environmental performance of every publicly traded company’s operations, across 89 industries.

At the time, SASB said its goal was to become for sustainability reporting what the Financial Accounting Standards Board – the nonprofit that developed best practices in financial disclosure accounting and informs the SEC’s regulatory agenda – is to financial reporting.

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