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How can the enterprise earn investor trust through sustainability disclosures?


Deloitte and The Fletcher School at Tufts University embarked on a global study, executed between January and December 2023, to understand how companies can enhance investor trust in their sustainability disclosures by delving into the minds of…1

  • Chief Sustainability Officers looking to navigate increasingly complex regulatory environments, which require sustainability disclosures
  • Chief Financial Officers who want to understand the impact of the organisation’s sustainability commitments and disclosures on investor behaviour
  • Asset owners, investment managers and investment advisers who seek access to trustworthy sustainability data

Investors are increasingly incorporating sustainability factors into investment decisions and are seeking an opportunity, with an estimated US$43 trillion in global economic growth projected between 2021 - 2070, if the world economy transforms to achieve net-zero emissions.2

  • 83% of surveyed investors incorporate sustainability information into fundamental analyses
  • 79% of respondents have sustainability policies in place, compared to 20% five years ago

Despite growing demand for sustainability information, investors report significant barriers in the clarity, consistency and reliability of data. While regulations and standards are emerging globally to drive data consistency, they are not yet implemented broadly enough to provide fully reliable data to investors. Therefore, investors are most likely to use the information, data and sources they trust, which include in-house data systems and audited or assured disclosures. 

Strategically building trust with investors is critical for corporations seeking to stay ahead of the competition, grow market value and gain access to capital. Therefore, corporate leaders have a strategic opportunity to strengthen their relationship with investors as the capital markets arrive at an inflection point driven by the transition toward a more sustainable world. Continue reading for access to interactive insights by region and country and download the Global and US reports for further analysis.

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Sustainable investing landscape

Integrating sustainability factors into investing decisions

Barriers to integrating sustainability data

Trust in data sources and usage

What makes investors distrustful is the fact that [investors] actually view [ESG] as a material risk and companies will sometimes use it as a marketing effort.

- Former Global Head ESG Capital Markets, European Bank

Four actions which can help to earn investor trust in corporate sustainability commitments

Each leader has a critical and unique role to play for an organisation to reliably execute on its sustainability commitments. While the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) may drive the organisation’s sustainability strategy, all C-suite leaders and the board have a role to play.

Investing in reporting systems and compliance solutions may enable more robust, higher quality disclosures. Establishing trust with investors is not a “one and done” objective. Many large corporations have already begun developing sophisticated reporting capabilities to get ahead of impending regulatory requirements. Companies that continue to wait on the sidelines risk playing catch up and competitive disadvantages. 

Investors trust audited and assured disclosures as much as their own propriety data.
Audited or assured disclosures provide the transparency in sustainability information that investors seek. Not only are these sources more trusted, but more experienced sustainability investors from our survey were more likely to employ audited or assured and in-house data. This suggests that as other investors gain experience, they too will increasingly rely on these data sources.

Tell your sustainability story by proactively engaging with investors on your sustainability actions.
As sustainable investing grows, corporations can expect more investors to seek engagement with corporates to understand their sustainability strategies and outcomes. Respondents to our survey with a minimum of two years implementing a sustainable investment policy state they are 1.5x more likely to regularly use an active sustainability investment strategy, meaning they may vote their proxies, engage in dialogue with corporate leaders and make shareholder proposals.
Investor engagement provides corporates the opportunity to address potential issues, foster transparency and accountability and earn trust.

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