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Ceres, SEC Leaders Talk About the Bridge to Expanded Climate Disclosure

Corporate sustainability professionals were updated by the head of the SEC on which companies would be required ramp up their climate disclosure data.
By Dave Armon
Climate Disclosure

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge today, corporate sustainability professionals received an update from the head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on which companies would be required to disclose so-called Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the 1,600 large U.S.-based public companies characterized as “accelerated filers” by the SEC, “a fair number” would have to report on Scope 3, SEC chair Gary Gensler said during a Reuters sustainability conference.  Scope 3 encompasses not only a company’s own emissions, but also those of third-party partners both upstream and downstream.

A public comment period began in March when the SEC published proposed climate disclosure rules. More than 5,800 comments have been filed as of press time.

“Companies and investors alike would benefit from clear rules of the road,” Gensler said. “We’re trying to build upon that.”

Pushback over rules mandating Scope 3 emissions has clearly irked some business leaders pushing for accountability in the face of a looming climate crisis.

“We have a bus coming at our kids. Climate is that bus that’s coming fast and furious, and we’ve got to get in front of it,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO and president of the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, adding that an automobile rental company needs to be held accountable for Scope 3 emissions for its 5,000-car fleet. “All the SEC is saying is measure.”

“Data is a start. We’ve got to move at a pace and speed we’ve never done before,” Lubber continued during an on-stage interview at this week’s Reuters Responsible Business USA event in New York.

Threats of potential litigation aimed at the climate-related disclosure rules should not dissuade the SEC from action, said Lubber, who both applauded companies setting science-based targets and warned against making empty gestures that give the appearance of climate action.

“Words and small steps are equivalent to nothing,” she said. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a revolution from cute green teams at the office to thousands of companies committing to net zero.”

Image credit: Magnus Andersson via Unsplash

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Dave Armon is the Chief Executive Officer of 3BL Media, which produces the 3BL Forum and ranks the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. A former journalist, Dave spent 20 years in management at PR Newswire, where he was president and COO.  

Read more stories by Dave Armon