In December 2021, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued the results of its pilot climate risk stress test (CRST).  The CRST assesses the potential impact of climate change on the Hong Kong banking sector.  It marks the latest such publication by a regulator on the topic, with French regulator, Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (ACPR), having published the results of its climate risk stress test in Q2 2021 and a number of other countries’ regulators undertaking similar analyses during 2022.

The CRST indicates that the Hong Kong banking sector should remain resilient to climate-related shocks given the Banks’ strong capital buffers. However, it was noted that simplified assumptions and use of historical data in modelling could mean the potential impact could be more serious than predicted.

The exercise identified various climate-related vulnerabilities for Banks to seek to address and highlighted gaps in terms of insufficient granular, reliable data, as well as a lack of widely-accepted standards for classifying and identifying climate risk exposures.  HKMA notes that addressing these issues will require concerted efforts of the industry.

In this Blog Post, we set out a high level summary of the CRST in terms of the scope of the CRST, pertinent findings and actions required to enhance climate risk management going forward.

Continue Reading HKMA Publishes Report On First Climate Risk Stress Test Of The Hong Kong Banking Sector

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part III to understand some of the taxonomy-related challenges that asset managers may encounter. You can find Parts I and II here and here.

Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part III

Much is heard of the plethora of – often disparate – disclosure regimes and standards around sustainability, and the attendant difficulties for stakeholders, including investors, customers, and the public more generally, of assessing and comparing performance in a meaningful way.  Significant developments in the consolidation of the sustainability disclosure landscape are, however, imminent.

The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) – an international consortium of businesses and NGOs that offers companies a framework for reporting environmental information – has announced that it will close down its operations and consolidate with the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) at the end of January 2022.  In addition, the ISSB will complete the consolidation of the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) – an international NGO that houses the Integrated Reporting Framework and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards – by the end of June 2022. These developments mark significant steps towards the ISSB’s ambition to become the world’s leading sustainability standards board.

Continue Reading International Sustainability Standards Board Commences its Streamlining of the Sustainability Disclosure Landscape

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part II for our analysis of how asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies. You can find Parts I and III here and here.

Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part II

A company’s ability and commitment to include en­vironmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in its strategy becomes more and more important to investors, consumers, policy makers, civil socie­ty organizations and other stakeholders. There is a funda­mental societal shift towards sustainability and responsi­bility. Managers are held accountable for ESG compliance. While environmental and governance aspects have always been key criteria, social sustainability criteria such as di­versity and inclusion, human rights, health and safety at work and equal employment opportunities for minorities have become a focal point only more recently. Many com­panies still have a rather vague understanding of what ESG actually means and how ESG criteria can be ad­dressed by a company’s compliance organization. At the same time, disclosure and reporting obligations make a company’s approach to ESG very transparent for both in­ternal and external stakeholders, so looking into this topic behind closed doors is no longer an option.

Read more in our article in Labor Law Magazine

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part I for a better understanding of existing and developing taxonomies around the world. You can find Parts II and III here and here.

Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part I

In order to implement the “Plan for the Reform of the Legal Disclosure System of Environmental Information” issued by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in May 2021, the MEE has issued new disclosure rules (Rules) that will require domestic entities to disclose a range of environmental information on an annual basis, effective 8 February 2022. The Rules apply to listed companies and bond issuers that were subject to certain environmental penalties in the previous year and other entities identified by the MEE, including those that discharge high levels of pollutants. Covered entities must disclose information on environmental topics including:

  • environmental management;
  • pollutant generation;
  • carbon emissions; and
  • contingency planning for environmental emergencies.

Covered listed companies and bond issuers must also disclose climate change, ecological and environmental protection information related to investment and financing transactions.

The Rules follow efforts by other Chinese regulators intended to enhance the environmental disclosure landscape in China, including amendments requiring listed companies to disclose environmental administrative penalties and encouraging carbon emissions disclosures issued by the China Securities Regulatory Commission in July 2021.

The pressure on States and corporates to take action to address the socio-economic and environmental impacts of climate change is rapidly increasing. This pressure has resulted in a substantial rise in the number of climate change-related disputes. Although many of these disputes have thus far been brought before national courts, arbitration is likely to become an increasingly important method for resolving climate change-related disputes in the near future, since these disputes are often of an international nature and may benefit from the use of a neutral forum. In particular, there is likely to be an increase in climate change-related investment treaty arbitration, given the rising influence of climate change in the investment treaty landscape. This will bring into focus a variety of considerations affecting investments which are subject to the protection of one or more investment treaties.

Continue Reading Climate Change and Investment Treaty Arbitration

Climate change is a serious threat to the US housing finance system. That is the conclusion reached by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) in a December 27th statement. In the statement, Acting FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson recognizes that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks have an important leadership role in addressing that threat, and the agency is instructing those entities to designate climate change as a priority concern and actively consider its impacts in decision making.

Read more on our Consumer Financial Services Review blog

On 6 December 2021, the Netherlands became the latest European government to announce plans to introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation at a national level, adding to a growing movement and proliferation of national HREDD laws. This puts the Netherlands in the company of the likes of France, Germany and Norway (which have enacted or adopted such laws) and Austria, Belgium and Switzerland, among others (which are progressing their own national HREDD laws).

This development comes despite further delay on the publication of HREDD legislation at an EU level (see our previous Blog Post). On 6 December 2021, the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development minister said that he was “very disappointed” at the European Commission’s further delay to introduce EU mandatory HREDD legislation and announced the Dutch Government’s plans to develop and introduce a national HREDD law instead.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – The Netherlands to Introduce Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation