by Lauren Grimanis, Haas MBA 2020
I spent my summer at the intersection of corporations, investments, and sustainability. How is all that possible?! At the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), SASB has developed a set of financially material sustainability standards to help businesses identify, manage, and report on issues that matter most to their investors. These deeply researched and evidence backed standards help investors make more informed decisions on key sustainability topics specific to sector and industry. Most distinctively, SASB standards are financially material which means that topics have been proven to affect the financial position of the industry.
Over the nine weeks, with two fellow interns tasked with three collaborative projects, I dug deep into the 981 SASB standards across 11 sectors and 77 industries. Our heaviest lift project was performing a global gap analysis of the standards, trying to understand the magnitude and depth that the standards would need to be altered in order to be internationally applicable. There has been heightened interest across the globe for consistent ESG (environment, social, and governance) guidelines and so ensuring that the standards can be globally applicable was an organizational priority for the year. Many of the standards utilize international guidelines through the UN or ISO, however, certain sectors and industries have very specific country regulations or structures. For example, the healthcare system across countries vary greatly, therefore, this sector would need more analysis and research to understand how it could be applied around the world.
Just before starting my internship, I was in India with Haas’s International Business Development Program. My team was paired with a large apparel company to create their 2025 sustainability map. I spent the spring semester plus three weeks in-country understanding the challenges of implementing sustainability plans in large corporations. Unsurprisingly, one of the largest challenges that sustainability generally faces is the business case, especially with short-term incentive and performance structures in place in large corporations. This flowed seamlessly into my internship at SASB because SASB provides the business case for sustainability! They show how specific environmental, social, and governance issues can and will affect a company’s financial position and ultimately how they thrive and survive.