Climate change, emissions accounting, and other sustainability issues are difficult to tackle in their own right. Layer in the robust and complex landscape that has quickly emerged around sustainability reporting and ESG standards and your head could be left spinning.
Whether you’re just starting your sustainability journey or you’re a seasoned pro, the 600+ sustainability standards, certifications, and frameworks begin to feel like an acronym soup.
Sustain.Life helps map your sustainability strategies to five leading standards: UNGC, SDGs, GRI, TRUE Zero Waste, and B Corp.Request a demo
In this post, I’ll make things a bit more digestible by explaining why you might want to pursue a third-party standard in the first place. I'll also share some points about how to select what’s right for your business while navigating the vast sustainability landscape.
The difference between frameworks, disclosures, certifications, and assessments
First, let’s look at the distinctions between frameworks, disclosures, certifications, and assessments so you can choose which ones you want to pursue.
Think of sustainability reporting frameworks as principle- and topic-based guidance that helps structure decision-making and share information. These are strategic guidelines that tell you how to approach sustainability.
Examples: United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Detailed, replicable reporting standards that position metrics around specific topics like economic, environmental, and social impact. Think of these as guardrails that govern what to report and how to organize sustainability information thematically.
Examples: GRI, CDP
Third-party recognition awarded based on a set of standards, often theme-specific and targeted for products, buildings, or parts of your business.
Examples: TRUE Zero Waste, B Corp
Questionnaires or surveys that set benchmarks based on performance or industry averages. These are often part of certifications, like B Corp, or sustainability disclosure reporting processes, like CDP. In the case of B Corp, overall scores from the assessments are public; however, some assessments, like CDP, give the option to share only with requesting investors.
Examples: B Lab Assessment (required to pursue B Corp certification), CDP questionnaires
Five top sustainability frameworks, disclosures, certifications, and assessments
Determining which sustainability standard best suits your organization is a formidable task. Do you want to prioritize risk management? Guidance? Opportunities for recognition? Climate-related financial disclosures? Methodologies to help you align business practices to international standards and customer expectations? If you don't know yet, that's OK—we’ve summarized the top five industry-agnostic (and global) sustainability reporting standards and frameworks.