What’s the difference between ESG reporting standards and frameworks?

by Dan Byrne on Mar 14, 2023

ESG reporting standards and frameworks

ESG reporting standards and frameworks can be tricky to unpack and put to use in your business.

Quite simply: there’s just a lot of information; how are you supposed to know where to start? 

This quick guide will give an overview of common standards and frameworks and their differences. 

To learn more about it, consider taking an ESG qualification with the Corporate Governance Institute. More info here

For starters, what are standards and frameworks?

They are sets of guiding principles for the crucial topic of ESG reporting. 

ESG reporting is the heart of the movement because it’s how organisations communicate their progress in environmental, social or governance issues to stakeholders, particularly investors. 

If organisations can’t communicate this progress, any ESG-related work – no matter how strong – will not translate to verifiable results.

Why are standards and frameworks necessary?

They’re necessary because companies can’t just report on ESG in any way they choose. They need to do so in a way that makes sense and has context. Standards and frameworks address this need. 

The persistent problem is that we don’t yet have a universal ESG reporting standard or framework that’s used worldwide. 

Because of that, industries have fallen back towards several widely-used standards as a substitute.

What’s the difference between ESG reporting frameworks and standards?


  • ESG reporting frameworks are more about principles. This focus on the bigger questions, such as how information is structured, what information is collected, etc.  
  • ESG reporting standards are more technical. They give specific requirements, like precise metrics for reporting each topic. 

Remember that standards and frameworks should be used together. The former gives context and quantifiable objectives to the latter. 

Ultimately, the combination ensures that if you look at reports from multiple organisations side by side, they will make sense as individual documents and when compared against each other.

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What are some common ESG reporting frameworks?

  1. The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. As the name suggests, it focuses on climate – or the “E” component of ESG. 
  2. The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) framework – developed to promote integration across all kinds of ESG reporting. 
  3. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework is a “catch-all” framework that tries to broadly capture multiple corners of ESG. 
  4. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) framework. Again, this focuses on the “E” in ESG and aims to standardise information connected to climate change.

What are some common ESG reporting standards?

  1. The European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) standards. EFRAG was established by the European Commission and is closely tied to that body’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), passed in 2021. The standards focus on sustainability and financial matters. 
  2. The IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards, spearheaded by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). These standards aim to streamline accounting reporting globally, increasing transparency in financial markets. 
  3. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards. These focus on all three pillars of ESG and are closely connected with the IFRS standards above.

In summary

ESG reporting frameworks provide guiding principles for ESG reporting, while standards give the tools to follow through on those principles. 

Both are important, and both should be used in tandem for full ESG transparency.

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