Getting Ahead Of The Curve: Sustainability Disclosure & Engagement

September 11, 2019 05:30 PM
 Domain 3:
Corporate messaging and development
 Domain 7:
Strategic Counsel and Coordination
 Domain 10:
Corporate governance

On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, NIRI NY hosted the first event of the 2019 – 2020 season at the Nasdaq Marketsite in Times Square. “Getting Ahead of the Curve,” a panel discussion focused on sustainability disclosure and engagement, featured the senior IROs and sustainability executives from Etsy and The Travelers Companies, who discussed their ESG journeys and best practices. More than 80 NIRI NY members were in attendance.

The distinguished panel consisted of:

  • Yafit Cohn, Travelers’ Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer and Group General Counsel
  • Abbe Goldstein, Travelers’ Head of Investor Relations
  • Chelsea Mozen, Etsy’s Sustainability Lead
  • Deb Wasser, Etsy’s Vice President of Investor Relations
  • Moderator: Lauren Gojkovich, Director, PJT Camberview and NIRI NY’s Vice President of Programs

The discussion began with Cohn and Goldstein providing an overview of their roles at Travelers’ and how they collectively led efforts to produce the company’s first comprehensive and integrated sustainability report. They also shared insights on how they collaborated across the organization to develop ESG engagement and communications strategies.

Mozen and Wasser walked the audience through Etsy’s journey to re-focus its sustainability efforts, shifting its focus to certain key Impact Goals centered on three key pillars of Economic, Social and Environmental. Through these efforts, they helped make sustainability more integrated – both throughout the company and in their public disclosure documents – and better aligned with performance and incentive goals.

Key takeaways from the discussion include:

  • Panelists highlighted the need for consistency and greater focus when it comes to sustainability reporting. Commonly used sustainability disclosure frameworks include the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
  • The team at Travelers’ views its efforts regarding sustainability as focused on ensuring more effective communication with shareholders. Their team invested significant time and resources to better understand the topics, frameworks and disclosure methods that were important to their investors, and structured their sustainability program directly in response to their feedback.
  • As a sustainability trailblazer, Etsy was one of the first companies (and the first e-commerce company) to discontinue production of a standalone sustainability report and instead, include key SASB and other metrics in their Form 10-K and Impact Goals in their proxy statement. Etsy also incorporates value-driving sustainability initiatives, such as their switch to carbon-neutral shipping, into earnings calls as appropriate.
  • While investors at large institutions do ask about ESG issues, sustainability disclosure is still evolving and varies significantly by institution. Panelists agreed that ESG topics still do not come up frequently in most investor discussions, and are rarely discussed with the sell-side. Both companies commented that they do receive positive and constructive feedback on their disclosure practices and remain open and responsive to input from the financial community.

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