With the 30th June SFDR PAI reporting deadline looming, June 2023 has proven to be a decisive month for the evolution of ESG regulation globally. In a bold move to combat climate change and foster sustainable practices, the European Commission has unveiled a groundbreaking sustainable finance package. This comprehensive set of measures encompasses crucial regulations targeting ESG ratings providers while expanding the EU Taxonomy to encompass new criteria for environmental objectives. Simultaneously, the Commission has proposed rules to modernize EU maritime safety and curb water pollution caused by ships. Furthermore, the European Commission has taken a significant stride towards establishing reporting standards for sustainability, empowering companies to determine the specific aspects of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that are obligatory for their operations. Swiss voters have embraced an ambitious plan to attain climate neutrality by 2050, emphasizing energy consumption reduction and the promotion of climate-friendly technologies. The European Parliament has also demonstrated its commitment by adopting its position on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, thereby demanding that businesses address human rights and environmental risks in their operations. Meanwhile, the EU Council has sealed an agreement on a far-reaching nature restoration law, setting ambitious targets for the safeguarding and rejuvenation of EU land and sea areas. On the other side of the world, Australia has mandated the incorporation of climate change-related risks into the operations of the APRA, the nation’s financial services regulator, while endorsing climate reporting standards for regulated entities.
Additionally, the recent launch of IFRS S1 and S2 for ESG disclosures generated mixed reactions. While some criticize the standards for primarily addressing business sustainability rather than broader social and planetary concerns, others argue that any progress is valuable, even if it’s not fast enough. IFRS S1 requires disclosing sustainability-related risks and opportunities that impact an entity’s cash flows and access to finance, but entities can choose to disclose only financially material aspects. Going forward, key areas of interest include recognizing the financial materiality of social issues, advocating for a social standard grounded in human rights, and observing the global uptake of SASB’s standards. These initiatives underline the global community’s ongoing efforts to foster sustainability, confront climate-related challenges, one policy-making step at a time.
ISSB standards Launch
26th June marked the launch of the long-awaited IFRS ISSB Standards, aiming to create a global baseline for financially material sustainability reporting. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) released IFRS S1 and IFRS S2, marking a major step in sustainability disclosures. The standards aim to enhance trust and confidence in company disclosures about sustainability, enabling informed investment decisions. They introduce a common language for communicating the impact of climate-related risks and opportunities on a company’s prospects. They are designed to be used globally alongside financial statements, creating a comprehensive baseline. The ISSB will support adoption, establish a Transition Implementation Group, and collaborate with jurisdictions and reporting standards organizations to ensure effective implementation and reporting. Read more
European Commission unveils sustainable finance package, imposes transparency requirements on ESG ratings providers
The European Commission has introduced a comprehensive sustainable finance package that covers ESG ratings, the EU Taxonomy, and transition finance. The package includes a proposed regulation to enhance transparency and oversight of ESG ratings providers, requiring them to disclose methodologies and data sources. It also expands the EU Taxonomy to include new criteria for economic activities related to environmental objectives. Additionally, the Commission has issued draft recommendations on transition finance, advising undertakings to assess their needs and align with the EU Taxonomy and climate benchmarks. The regulatory measures aim to promote transparency, accountability, and sustainability in the financial sector. By addressing deficiencies in ESG ratings and strengthening the EU Taxonomy, the EU seeks to guide investors and foster a transition towards a greener future. Read more
European Commission sets forth rules on maritime safety and water pollution
The European Commission has presented five legislative proposals aimed at modernizing EU rules on maritime safety and preventing water pollution from ships. These proposals seek to support clean and modern shipping while aligning EU rules with international regulations. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be charged with implementing the new requirements and supporting Member States’ administration. The proposals focus on modernizing maritime safety rules, enhancing port State control and accident investigations, tackling ship-source pollution, and updating EMSA’s mandate. The goal is to improve maritime safety, prevent accidents, and reduce environmental pollution. The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council for further action. These initiatives are part of the EU’s broader efforts to achieve sustainable and smart mobility and promote zero emissions, pollution, and accidents in the shipping sector. Read more
The European sustainability reporting standards delegated act
In the first delegated act, the European Commission outlines essential reporting information in relation to cross-cutting standards and EU legal frameworks. Central to the act is the concept of ‘materiality’, requiring companies to determine which aspects of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) are mandatory for them. All standards and corresponding disclosure requirements will undergo double materiality assessment, except for those in the ‘General disclosures’ section, allowing companies to focus exclusively on those sustainability-related impacts, risks and opportunities which are most relevant to them. Smaller companies have flexibility in the initial years, allowing omission of certain disclosures such as Scope 3 GHG emissions and workforce-related information. Proposed mandatory reporting metrics may become voluntary, providing an extra year for disclosure. An interpretation mechanism and educational resources will ensure clarity and support in implementing the standards. The aim is to strike a balance between comprehensive reporting and reducing the burden, particularly for smaller businesses. Stakeholders have until July 7 to provide input on the draft act. Read more
Swiss voters approve plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050
In an effort to reduce environmental pollution and decrease dependence on other nations, the Federal Council and Parliament have formulated a plan to gradually decrease the consumption of oil and gas and increase domestic energy production. The primary objective of the Climate and Innovation Act is for Switzerland to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The bill includes measures to curb energy consumption, such as providing financial assistance to individuals who replace their oil, gas, or electric heating systems. Additionally, companies that invest in climate-friendly technologies will receive support. It is worth noting that this bill does not aim to outright ban fossil fuels like petrol, diesel, heating oil, and gas. Swiss voters approved the climate law on 18 June 2023. Overall, the Climate and Innovation Act seeks to address Switzerland’s energy challenges by promoting energy efficiency, reducing reliance on foreign fossil fuels, and fostering the adoption of climate-friendly technologies. The upcoming referendum will determine the fate of this legislation and shape Switzerland’s approach to climate change mitigation and energy security in the years to come. Read more
EU adopts position on Due Diligence Directive
The European Parliament has adopted its position on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). The regulator has a strong message promoting sustainable and responsible corporate practices through the integratation of human rights and environmental risks into companies’ operations and governance. The rules require businesses to address the adverse impacts of their actions within and outside of Europe, including in their value chains. These rules will apply to EU-based companies with over 250 employees and a turnover of over EUR 40M and to parent companies with 500 or more employees and turnover of EUR 150M, regardless of sector. The recognition of the financial sector is seen as a gamechanger and an important step forward. However, some amendments, such as the deletion of Article 26 on overseeing due diligence, were regrettable according to stakeholders. The final position of the European Parliament will now enter inter-institutional negotiations, and discussions are expected to be finalized by the end of the year.Read more
EU Council reaches agreement on Nature Restoration Law
The European Council has announced its agreement on a comprehensive nature restoration law that sets ambitious targets for the protection and restoration of EU land and sea areas. The agreement, which will serve as the Council’s negotiating position, aims to enable the recovery of degraded ecosystems, contribute to climate objectives, and support the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Despite facing a close vote in the EU Parliament earlier this month, the proposed legislation has advanced to a full parliamentary vote scheduled for next month. The law includes targets for various habitats, such as wetlands, grasslands, forests, and marine ecosystems, and addresses issues like declining pollinator populations and drained peatlands. Read more
Australia mandates financial services regulator to adopt climate reporting standards
The Australian government has mandated that the APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) must incorporate climate change-related risks into its operations. This requirement, outlined in an updated Statement of Expectations for APRA, entails promoting responsible practices and transparency regarding climate-related financial risks, as well as endorsing climate reporting standards for regulated entities. Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers emphasized that this is the first time the government explicitly obligates the regulator to address climate change risks in its duties. The directive aligns with the government’s efforts to establish a climate risk disclosure framework and make such reporting mandatory for large-scale entities. Recognizing the significant threat of physical and transition climate risks to global financial stability, the government aims to manage these risks through disclosure and is developing a comprehensive sustainable finance strategy with climate risk disclosure as a key component. APRA has already initiated initiatives to assess climate risks in the financial system, including a Climate Vulnerability Assessment with the country’s five largest banks, which examines the potential financial impact of climate change and the banks’ responses to these risks. Read more
Other News & Resources
- OECD launches updated version of Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct. Read more
- International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) begins development of a climate disclosure standard for the public sector.Read more
- SBTi opens public consultation on three draft resources for the financial sector. Read more
- ICMA updates Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles. Read more
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