It’s almost time for the grand reveal. While the final product is still a bit of a mystery, the anticipation has the business world anxiously awaiting the news.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to make a big announcement in April, and if we’re lucky, it will be the full release of its climate disclosure rules. Either way, publicly-traded companies in the U.S. should be preparing to report on the climate metrics that are soon to become mandatory.
We are in the midst of a climate crisis, and the rules that dictate how businesses and governments operate are changing. The EU already has a climate disclosure system in place for its largest companies — which is being upgraded next year to include more companies and more thorough reporting. The U.S. is following the EU’s lead with the new SEC climate disclosure rules.
The mandatory disclosures are expected to include a company's carbon emissions, low-carbon transition plans and climate risks. Climate risk is separated into physical and transition risks: Physical risks are climate hazards like drought, flood and extreme heat, whereas transition risks cover the policy changes with which organizations must comply.
While businesses have yet to be shown the final climate disclosure rules from the SEC, there are measures they can take to hit the ground running when the rules are revealed.
“It’s really about being prepared for Scope 3 [GHG emissions] and ensuring that all of the data you are disclosing is traceable and auditable,” says William Theisen, CEO of EcoAct North America.
Scope 3 GHG emissions cover the emissions produced across an organization’s entire value chain, both upstream and downstream. Depending on the size of the business, this can include hundreds or thousands of different companies, from raw material suppliers to distribution partners. It’s an overwhelming task, but it’s much more manageable if taken one step at a time.
“The first step is to do a materiality assessment and get at least an idea of where you should focus first,” Theisen says. “Look at the products and services within your supply chain, and then transform them using an emission factor to equate it to a tonnage of carbon. It won’t be completely accurate, but it will at least give you an idea of areas to dive into and get more granular data.”
Organizations that want to have some idea of what the SEC reporting may look like can explore the current CDP global disclosure system. “As a supplier or publicly- traded company looking to get your bearings on what requirements are probably going to be important, CDP is a good place to start," Theisen suggests.
Part of the SEC disclosure requirements will include climate risk. While it can be difficult to evaluate how vulnerable business assets are to climate risk — with much of it open to interpretation — honesty and transparency is the best policy, Theisen advises. Trying to downplay climate risk is how a business can get burned.
“It’s the quality of their disclosure. If they understand what the climate risks are and they’re addressing them, that can actually play in a company’s favor,” he explains. “It’s when a company is not disclosing any climate risk that the assumption then is that maybe they don’t know what’s happening — maybe they’re not putting in mitigation measures.”
“Investors and external stakeholders really just want to understand that this is being appropriately managed, that there is a roadmap, and that the roadmap can evolve,” Theisen says. “We’re all adapting to climate change year after year."
Enlisting climate consultants can help businesses develop strategies for their climate disclosures. This demonstrates to investors that leadership understands the risks associated with climate change and are engaging in methods to mitigate their exposure.
Image credit: RF._.studio/Pexels
Andrew Kaminsky is a freelance writer with no fixed location. He travels all corners of the globe learning about the different groups that call this planet home, seeing natural wonders, and sharing laughs with the people he finds along the way. An alum of the University of Winnipeg's International Development program, Andrew is particularly interested in international relations and sustainable development. In his spare time you are likely to find Andrew engaging in anything sport-related, or finding common ground with new friends over a craft beer.