“… we renew our call on all governments to develop, implement, and enforce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence requirements for businesses headquartered or operating within their own jurisdictions or, where appropriate, to further strengthen these regulatory regimes where they already exist.” – a statement from 94 investors representing over $6.3 trillion in AUM

On 7 October 2021, 94 investors representing over $6.3 trillion in assets under management and advisement, sent a statement to European Commissioners and the European Parliament, voicing their support for mandated human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) (the “Statement“). The Statement was sent in light of the upcoming European Commission legislative proposal on Sustainable Corporate Governance. The proposal would require companies to consider their human rights and environmental impacts, allowing them to better manage sustainability related matters in their value chains and overall operations.

Continue Reading 94 Investors Representing Over $6 Trillion of AUM Voice Support for Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence

On October 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) published a proposed regulation entitled “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights” (the “Proposed Rule”).  The Proposed Rule is the latest in a series of DOL guidance and regulations regarding a plan fiduciary’s consideration of environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors when making investment decisions for ERISA plans and the exercise of shareholder rights by such plans. The Proposed Rule follows prior regulations issued by the DOL under President Trump in 2020 regarding both ESG (the “2020 ESG Rule”) and proxy voting (the “2020 Proxy Rule,” together with the 2020 ESG Rule, the “2020 Rules”). The 2020 Rules themselves followed a series of sub-regulatory guidance by the DOL, which issued guidance on these topics under each of the Clinton[1], Bush[2], Obama[3] and Trump[4] administrations. While the bedrock principals under the guidance largely remained unchanged, the gloss and tenor of the guidance has shifted, depending upon the political views of the White House’s then-current occupant.

Continue Reading US Regulator Shifts Toward Favorable View on ESG Investing and the Exercise of Shareholder Rights in New Regulation

In September, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the omnibus, 956-page climate and energy legislative package titled the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (the “CEJA”). The CEJA has an immediate effective date. In a Legal Update, we cover the amendments the CEJA makes to Illinois law with respect to decarbonization of the electric generation facilities throughout the U.S. state and the corresponding increased financial support for wind and solar generation projects, the investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and incentives for consumers to purchase electric vehicles, and the new labor standards applicable to clean energy projects.

Continue reading on MayerBrown.com.

On 1 January 2019, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (MSA 2018) came into force in Australia. The MSA 2018 requires entities based or operating in Australia with an annual consolidated revenue of more than 100 million AUS dollars to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and the actions taken to address those risks. The requirements of the MSA 2018 reflect increasing and strengthening modern slavery obligations around the world (see, for example, our previous Blog Post and earlier Legal Update).

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has published a report (the Report) evaluating the quality and compliance of reporting by companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX200) during the first reporting cycle under the MSA 2018.  The report sets out a number of recommendations, including how companies can improve their disclosures and how investors can exert their influence to encourage best practice in modern slavery reporting.  Although the recommendations are focused on the ASX200 and the MSA 2018, the Report’s findings are of broader relevance to best practice reporting beyond Australia – and will be of interest to all stakeholders concerned with modern slavery reporting and emerging mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – Reinforcing Modern Slavery Reporting – Lessons from Australia

‘With the most significant change since the GRI Standards launched in 2016, the revised Universal Standards set a new global benchmark for corporate transparency. Fully addressing gaps between the available disclosure frameworks and intergovernmental expectations for responsible business, including human rights reporting, they will enable more effective and comprehensive reporting than ever before.’

Judy Kuszewski, Chair of GRI’s Independent Global Sustainability Standard’s Board

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have revised their Universal Standards to emphasize and require more transparency in reporting on human rights impacts and due diligence obligations. This is a significant update because all entities reporting in accordance with the GRI standards are required to report on the Universal Standards (now GRI 1, 2 and 3). Previously, human rights-related disclosures were addressed largely in the GRI 400 series on Social topics, on which an organization is required to report only if it determines those topics to be material. Under the revised Universal Standards, all companies reporting in accordance with the GRI Standards will need to be able to identify (and disclose) how they identify severe risks to the economy, environment and people—this now clearly includes impacts on human rights connected with their business, and what they are doing to address these risks.

This development is part of a multi-phase project to update the GRI’s human rights-related disclosures, and the emphasis on “double materiality” brings the GRI standards in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and emerging mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation (see our Previous Blogs here and here).  For companies that already adhere to the UNGPs, these revisions may not present a significant new challenge in practice; however, for companies that have not to date sought to explicitly adhere to the UNGPs, this will present a new challenge in terms of meeting the revised GRI standards.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: Revised GRI Standards Integrate UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Foreshadow Emerging Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence Legislation

The European Union’s recent passage of its Sustainability Financial Disclosure Regulation marks yet another milestone in the progression of ESG matters. In a new article in The Secured Lender, we review this regulation and related ESG disclosure requirements, together with other notable ESG developments out of Japan and the United States, and discuss their impact on middle-market lenders.

Continue reading at The Secured Lender.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Division of Corporation Finance (Division) published a sample letter with comments that the Staff intends to issue to public companies regarding their climate change disclosures—or lack thereof—in SEC filings. As explained in a prior Mayer Brown post, Commissioner Lee, when she was Acting Chair of the SEC earlier this year, directed the Staff to increase its attention on the ways in which public companies implement the SEC’s 2010 Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change, which provides direction to companies regarding the SEC rules that may require disclosure about climate change, despite the fact that climate change is not explicitly referenced in the existing rules.

The SEC’s disclosure requirements are largely principles-based and may require different information from different companies, including climate change-related information.

Continue Reading US SEC Division of Corporation Finance Publishes Sample Letter to Companies Regarding Climate Change Disclosures

On September 15, 2021, the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) released its first “Report on Social, Environmental and Climate-related Risks and Opportunities”. Based on the recommendations by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), and the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), the publication highlights the potential impacts of social, environmental, and climate-related issues on Brazil’s economy and financial stability, and details the initiatives aimed at assessing, disclosing and managing ESG risks and opportunities within the BCB structure and in the financial system.

Continue Reading Brazil’s Central Bank and National Monetary Council Publish New Rules on Disclosure and Management of Social, Environmental and Climate-related Risks

This article follows-up on our previous Blog Post exploring the “jargon” of the EU Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), an ambitious political action plan for chemicals regulation in the EU that was released in October 2020.

Today, we are digging into another key concept of the CSS: the concept of “one substance, one assessment” (hereafter referred to as “OSOA“), which is essential for the Commission, and more generally for the European Union, to simplify and consolidate the chemicals legal framework.

Continue Reading Simplifying and Recasting the Assessment of Chemicals in the EU: A Challenge for the Administrative Puzzle

It was recently reported, on 8 September 2021, that investors managing USD 2.3 trillion in assets called for standardised climate and environmental disclosure from more than 1,000 privately held portfolio companies.  The investors, who joined a growing chorus advocating for improved disclosures around environmental issues, requested the private companies to provide such data through the non-profit disclosure platform, CDP, which provides a mechanism for climate disclosures that align with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  The TCFD recommendations were published in June 2017, and have accelerated the focus on climate disclosures by providing the leading framework for disclosures relating to the financial impacts of climate-related risks.

But what are the TCFD recommendations, and how can companies prepare for reporting in compliance with them?

Continue Reading TCFD Recommendations: An Update on Climate Disclosures