AccountAbility is an expert Sustainability/ESG consulting and standards firm that provides objective counsel to CEOs and Boards on how to improve their business performance. The firm has a centered purpose – to innovate and advance the global Sustainability/ESG agenda by improving the practices, performance, and impact of organizations – and the firm works globally with businesses, investors, governments, and multi-lateral organizations on ESG matters out of its offices in New York, London, Dubai, and Riyadh. “We focus on delivering practical, effective, and enduring results that enable our clients to succeed,” says AccountAbility CEO, Sunil (Sunny) Misser.
For those that may be unfamiliar, could you please define “ESG” and explain its importance?
ESG – or “Environmental, Social and Governance” – is a framework for understanding, managing, and disclosing an organization’s activities related to the sustainability issues that are most material to business performance, environmental and social impact, and stakeholder expectations.
Sometimes known by other names, such as Corporate Responsibility, CSR, Triple Bottom Line, and many others, ESG has become the prevailing recognized framework for corporate sustainability action.
Recognized as a value-driver that can mitigate risk, optimize business performance, ensure stakeholder responsiveness, and capture competitive advantage, ESG is now expected to be integrated into the DNA of a company’s business model, operations, and enterprise-wide corporate governance.
For nearly 30 years – since long before the term “ESG” was coined – AccountAbility has been serving clients, globally, of all types, industries, and geographies that seek to better navigate the rapidly evolving business landscape of Environmental, Social, and Governance matters with practical solutions that improve business performance.
You were recently awarded “Best ESG Strategy Development Partner – Global, 2022” by Capital Finance International and this month were recognized by the Financial Times as a “leading management consultant” for a record, sixth consecutive year. To what do you attribute this success?
Led by CEO and ESG pioneer, Sunil (Sunny) A. Misser, AccountAbility delivers practical and relevant solutions that, together with objective ESG counsel, advance the business performance of its clients. With decades of experience and extensive expertise in the markets in which it operates, AccountAbility offers a competitive advantage that continues to be recognized by clients and award panels alike.
As a trusted global consulting and standards firm, AccountAbility’s clients and people are fundamental to its “Clients-People-Firm” philosophy. Clients are the epicenter of the firm’s existence – and success is measured in terms of impact on the performance of its clients, its people, and the firm, which is fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve some of the best and biggest clients in the world for many years.
With this, AccountAbility has attracted top talent and built a partnership network rooted in collaboration, innovation, and measurable impact. The company has established strategic alliances with industry leaders globally, including prominent universities and research institutions, sustainability standard setters and thought leaders, and multilateral industry associations.
AccountAbility has led through innovation, serving as the wellspring of sustainability concepts, theories, and practices, such as the introduction of Non-Financial (ESG) Materiality Assessment and Non-Financial Assurance twenty-eight years ago. They created the world’s first Non-Financial Assurance Standard and the number one ranked global Stakeholder Engagement Standard. AccountAbility continues to innovate, bringing a Principles-based approach to Sustainability Management, with Advisory, Standards, and Research operating under one roof.
What are some of your more notable success stories in advising organizations on their ESG matters?
As a global consultancy for nearly three decades, AccountAbility works with prominent multi-national and global organizations across industries, such as Financial Services, Energy & Extractives, Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Consumer Packaged Goods, Telecom & Technology, Foundations, and others in jurisdictions including the U.S., UK, EU, Middle East, and Asia.
Some noteworthy and recent client success stories include:
- The design of a leading practice Sustainable Procurement Framework for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to be published this year, built on 8 years of supporting the IMF with GHG Emissions Calculations and Environmental Reporting.
- Development of ESG goals and targets for Merck, which were presented to the Board and supported the company’s first ESG Investor Day.
- The design, development, and deployment of Global Signature Citizenship Programs for Aramco, focused on STEM Education, Biodiversity, Energy Access, and built on 12 years serving Aramco with ESG & Citizenship strategy and governance projects, reports, and forums.
- Design and implementation of the King Khalid Sustainability Award for the King Khalid Foundation (KKF) – the first and only of its kind in the region – for the last 15 years, focused on advancing ESG performance across the Kingdom’s private sector.
- The development of one of the world’s first double materiality models, deployed last year to support Bupa Arabia’s first Materiality Assessment.
- 5 consecutive years of Annual Reporting on the state of ESG in the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) Industry for Nareit.
- Conducting the first SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority) Board Governance Review for American Express Saudi Arabia.
- Setting up a Sustainability Framework for Ma’aden, and developing the company’s first three annual ESG Reports.
Others include guiding a Fortune 50 company to link corporate ESG targets and performance with C-suite compensation, developing ESG disclosure guidelines for a prominent stock exchange with a $3 trillion market cap, and designing an ESG Investor Relations function for a Top-10 GCC bank, among many more.
What are some ESG trends specific to Saudi companies and industries?
AccountAbility issues an annual global report on the top 7 Sustainability Trends facing businesses each year, guiding leaders on ESG matters of significant priority for the year ahead. These are topics that will shape business in 2023 across every industry and jurisdiction, including the KSA.
As the KSA adopts an increasing interest in sustainability strategy, ESG trends and activity specific to the region are, for the most part, driven by KSA’s “Vision 2030.”
Vision 2030 serves as a guide to a collective response to pressing economic and sustainability risks, including a dependence on oil, concern for health, digital, and physical infrastructure deficiencies in the KSA, a growing population of youth in need of vocational skills and opportunities, an increasing need for gender equity in the workforce, provision of access to opportunity for underserved groups, and a need to promote transparency and openness as a nation-branding initiative to improve perception on a global scale.
The initiative prioritizes safeguarding the environment by increasing waste management efficiency, establishing comprehensive recycling projects, reducing all types of pollution, fighting desertification, and optimizing the use of water resources by reducing consumption and utilizing treated and renewable water.
The Greening Saudi Initiative (SGI) is working towards NetZero 2060 targets with programs to implement new energy efficiency standards in power generation, water desalination, and electricity transmission and distribution. The initiative will develop carbon capture technologies and create a circular carbon economy to commoditize through the Tadawul (Stock Exchange) and invest in renewable energy to meet 50 percent of domestic energy needs from renewables by 2030. SGI is also targeting the planting of four-hundred and fifty million trees across the KSA by 2030, with significant contributions coming from the private sector.
The Tadawul (Saudi Exchange) and the Ministry of the Economy and Planning ESG guidelines align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The KSA has prioritized corporate Sustainability Reporting to measure contributions to the UNSDGs at a national level to monitor progress toward the Vision 2030.
AccountAbility has been advising some of the largest businesses and market-makers in the KSA for the last decade and a half, and provides clients with the expertise of a global ESG firm that has a uniquely deep understanding of the distinctive culture, circumstances, and opportunities facing the Kingdom’s business community.
What role can AccountAbility play in helping Saudi companies realize Vision 2030, especially considering the Kingdom’s current emphasis on sustainability and transparency?
Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016 (and long before), AccountAbility has successfully assisted many prominent KSA clients in developing ESG strategies that improve their business performance and align with V2030 goals. As the Kingdom rapidly embraces global ESG practices – through the Vision 2030 and other government initiatives, through Tadawul’s evolving ESG disclosure requirements, and through escalating stakeholder expectations – AccountAbility helps Saudi clients to adapt and adopt global leading practices to local market needs.
With significant Middle East market experience and a growing team, AccountAbility has increased capacity to guide more clients through the overwhelming ESG landscape and the sustainability issues that will impact performance for some of the world’s largest companies operating in the region.
Contact AccountAbility for support with your ESG Strategy, Governance, Programs, Reporting and Disclosure here:
Head of Mid-East & Asia