New research shines a light on existing social sustainability metrics that can spearhead further policy and industry action

Published on
1st February 2023

When we talk about measuring and reporting environmental and social impact, we often hear concerns from businesses and investors that social factors are hard to capture and report in a systematic way.

It is true that the pressure businesses, investors, and policymakers have been feeling around climate change as well as a greater consensus about how to measure climate concerns has led to significant progress in measuring and reporting environmental factors.

Tackling climate change and social injustice

But as society faces two huge challenges – climate change and social injustice – businesses are increasingly committed to contributing towards a fair and inclusive transition to Net Zero – in other words, a Just Transition. 

Sustainability reporting, particularly on social outcomes, remains patchy and inconsistent across industries. However, our research shows that there is a raft of existing legislation, voluntary codes, and market-led initiatives by which businesses and investors are already capturing and disclosing factors relating to people and communities.

A great starting point to make measuring and reporting social factors easier

With the generous pro-bono support of the law firm Reed Smith, we published a report that pulls together an overview of the picture in the UK. We believe that the existing frameworks and legislation are a great starting point to spearhead further policy and industry action to make the measuring and reporting of social factors easier in the future.

There are three stand-out areas that are sufficiently developed and could provide policymakers with a strong starting point for a social metrics framework:

  • ‘Non-discrimination’ (in relation to employment, i.e., workforce equality): contains a series of well-developed metrics, including gender pay gap reporting, ethnicity pay gap reporting and board diversity targets.
  • The national living wage (as determined by the Living Wage Foundation): prevents existing age disparities in relation to the statutory minimum wage, while also ensuring that all workers earn enough to get by, which is crucial to delivering a sustainable economy and Just Transition for all.
  • ‘Education’: similarly advanced, with indicators ranging from the attainment gap to access to higher education.

Taken together, these metrics articulate key indicators for a wide range of inequalities and are a strong basis for next steps by businesses, investors, policymakers, and regulators.

Related files

File published on 1st February 2023