Re-evaluating ESG reporting: The missing human factor

Sean R. Gallagher, professor of educational policy and founder and executive director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, with professor of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business Curtis Odom, associate teaching professor in the College of Professional Studies Monica Borgida, and research associate Emilee Trieckel, detail a fundamental gap in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting—a dearth of human capital measurement. This is despite a 2020 “mandate from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that publicly traded companies must, in their regular filings, disclose their human capital resources.”

Drawing their conclusions from interviews with thirty global experts and the existing literature, with funding from the Walmart Corporation, “Human Capital Measurement and Reporting: The New Frontier in Talent Strategy and ESG” makes a compelling case for measuring and reporting the human assets in organizations’ ESG compliance efforts. “A company’s workers are now regarded not just as resources but also as critical stakeholders,” they write. The report also details some of the hurdles currently facing enterprises that would like to move in this direction: hurdles like the complexity of external reporting frameworks, and the “current state of corporate technology.”

“Despite the strategic importance and value generated by employees in today’s knowledge-driven economy,” they write in their introduction, “human capital—as an intangible asset—traditionally has not been thought about, managed, reported, and regulated in the same way as companies’ other assets.” It’s time for that to change.

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