By Matthew Biddle
More than 1,300 companies worldwide disclose their environmental and social impact using standards set by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—and this spring, the School of Management hosted the board’s chair, Jeffrey Hales, for a free lecture.
Today, as investors evaluate business opportunities, they’re looking at much more than a firm’s bottom line. As Hales discussed at UB, many investors view sustainability as a critical element in building a company that can adapt to industry, regulatory and market shifts—making Hales’ lecture particularly timely for accounting students and professionals.
Presented by the school’s Helen and Oscar Sufrin Lectureship in Accounting, Hales’ talk was titled “Sustainability Reporting: What is it and What to Expect?” Among other topics, he shared how the SASB sets its standards based on evidence and market input—starting with a universal set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns, and then applying an “industry lens” to identify relevant issues for various sectors.
“Hales mentioned that, for a long time, the accounting profession has done a good job helping firms with their financials—but now it is time to look at the broader picture,” says Jacky Lin, BS ’21, MS ’22, who will join PwC this fall. “As an incoming external auditor, I know the concept of ESG will be part of my work and that it’s important for me to understand sustainability reporting.”
Hales has served as chair of the SASB, now part of the Values Reporting Foundation, since 2018. In this role, he oversees the agenda-setting and due process associated with developing and maintaining the SASB’s standards. Hales previously chaired the SASB Standards Council from 2012 to 2016.
In addition, Hales teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Bake Chair in Global Sustainability Leadership, is the Charles T. Zlatkovich Centennial Professor of Accounting, and serves as executive director of the Global Sustainability Leadership Institute.
“ESG reporting and disclosures are becoming more and more prevalent today,” says Joseph Nasby, BS ’21, MS ’22. “As we begin our careers, either as interns or newly hired audit associates, we need to pay attention to these issues.”
The Helen and Oscar Sufrin Lectureship in Accounting brings distinguished business professionals to the UB School of Management to speak about accounting issues. Funding is provided through the generous support of Leslie Sufrin, CPA, and Gerald Sufrin, MD, a longtime UB professor, in honor of their late parents.