In a series of blogs, that is likely to be an ongoing topic for the foreseeable future, I have been discussing the barrage of environmental, social and governance (ESG) related activity and focus by capital markets regulators and participants. Climate change initiatives and disclosures have been singled out in the ESG discussions and as a particular SEC focus, and as such was the topic of the first blog in this series (see HERE). The second blog talked more generally about ESG investing and ratings systems and discussed the role of a Chief Sustainability Officer (see HERE). The last blog on the topic focused on current and prospective ESG disclosure requirements and initiatives, including the Nasdaq ESG Reporting Guide (see HERE).
ESG is not just a topic impacting social position disclosures but can go directly to the financial condition of a reporting company, and as such its financial statements. Accordingly, ESG reporting requires auditor and audit committee
As I mentioned in the last blog in this series on ESG, back in September 2019, when I first wrote about environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters (see HERE), and through summer 2020 when the SEC led by Chair Jay Clayton was issuing warnings about making ESG metric induced investment decisions, I was certain ESG would remain outside the SEC’s regulatory focus.
Enter Chair Allison Herron Lee and in a slew of activity over the past few months, the SEC appointed a senior policy advisor for climate and ESG; the SEC Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”) announced it will scrutinize climate change disclosures; the SEC has formed an enforcement task force focused on climate and ESG issues; the Division of Examinations’ 2021 examination priorities included an introduction about how this year’s priorities have an “enhanced focus” on climate and ESG-related risks; almost every fund and major institutional investor has published statements on ESG initiatives; a Chief Sustainability