Review of Recent Guidance: Environment, Social, and Governance and Sustainable Development Goals for Associations

June 30, 2023 /in /by Trace Associates

The guidance document CSA SPE-116:23 Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and sustainable development goals (SDGs) guidance for associations was released in February 2023.


The document summarizes best practices and provides a road map for associations to support their ESG, SDG, or sustainability operations and strategy. The interesting perspective provided by the guidance document is that associations have the opportunity to not only advance their own sustainable practices, but they can also provide sustainability leadership for their members.


A total of nine “Foundational Practices” and 10 “Advanced Practices” are discussed in the document. While it is not necessary to undertake each of the practices in the order presented, it would be challenging to complete the advanced practices before the majority of the foundational practices are conducted.


The Foundational Practices start with a consultation with members to understand the current status of their sustainability programs, and to identify member priorities. It also recommends developing a common lexicon within the association to promote effective communication. The associations are encouraged to provide educational opportunities and tools for members, which could be achieved in collaboration with other peer associations for support.


The Advanced Practices are more aspirational. Beyond board engagement, goal setting, and purpose setting, there are other recommendations that are specific for associations. For example, the typical business does not develop designations, certifications, or curriculums.


The document can act as a simple road map and provides a self-rating system to allow associations to gauge their progress over time. The type of action and degree of effort is left to the association to determine.


The guidance document is generic enough that most associations can find it applicable; however, achieving the goals listed will require association specific actions that are not, and cannot be, specifically detailed.


In general, I found the guidance document easy to read and relatively practical; however, some associations may find the recommendations beyond their purview, and some associations that are early in their sustainability journey may require the assistance of experts. It made for an interesting read.


If your association requires assistance regarding ESG strategy, policy, or member services, contact Trace Associates Inc. 




Partner and Principal Environmental Scientist, Trace Associates Inc.