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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

55 of the world's largest companies are allowing themselves to be compared on key environmental, social, and governance standards. The long-awaited announcement standardizes reporting on everything from anti-corruption protocols to pay equality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The standardized metrics are global, and — crucially — have been signed onto by all four of the big accountancy companies. Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC will ensure that all companies calculate the metrics the same way, making it possible for the first time to accurately measure companies against each other.

How it works: The Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, as they're known, fall under four broad headings of people, planet, prosperity, and governance. They're applicable to all companies, public or private, regardless of industry or region.

  • Early adopters include Bank of America, Fidelity, Heineken, IBM, Mastercard, McKinsey, Nestlé, PayPal, Sony, Unilever, and many others.

What to watch: The new standards will make life a lot easier for regulators, investors, or anybody else who wants to to judge companies on areas from water consumption to the amount of tax they pay.

What they're saying: "It's about companies setting clear metrics, measuring our progress, and holding ourselves accountable,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

What's next: There's still a lot further to go. No regulators have mandated reporting of these standards, which aren't included in GAAP accounting principles.

  • Data providers like Refinitiv and Bloomberg have yet to incorporate them into their software. And because the standards have only now been finalized, there's no historical data by which to measure progress.

The bottom line: "This is not the end, it's the beginning," EY CEO Carmine di Sibio told Axios.

  • Some companies will report these metrics voluntarily — but the lowest performers won't report their numbers unless and until they have to.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

Updated 26 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.