Climate-related litigation is increasingly being used as a tool to hold companies and governments to account over their contributions to climate change.  According to the Grantham Institute’s 2021 Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation Policy Report (the “Report”), the number of climate-related cases has more than doubled since 2015: between 1986 and 2014, approximately

Emissions reporting standards and practices in the private equity sector have been described by certain commentators as being some way behind those in the public markets; certainly the private equity asset class has, so far, received less attention in the context of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-related reporting developments more generally.  That is changing, however; General Partners (“GPs“) are increasingly called upon to disclose climate-related data and establish greenhouse gas (“GHG“) emissions reduction targets across their portfolios.

There is not, at present, an agreed standard for reporting such information at a fund level, which has resulted in inconsistent approaches being adopted by different funds.  Inconsistencies, of course, potentially impair the ability of investors to make meaningful comparisons between portfolio companies, and indeed between funds.

In an attempt to address this inconsistency, the Initiative Climat International (“ICI“) — a practitioner-led group of private equity funds and investors that represents over USD $3 trillion in assets under management — in partnership with sustainability consultancy group Environmental Resources Management (“ERM“), have taken the proactive step of launching a new, non-binding standard that sets out a consistent approach to GHG disclosure across the private equity sector.  The standard, outlined in the ICI and ERM’s Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting report (the “Report”), aims to better align the disclosure practices of private equity funds with the practices currently adopted by many listed companies in the public markets.

Continue Reading New standard published for Greenhouse Gas Emissions reporting in Private Equity

“Greenwashing” – that is, environmental claims that are not fully or properly substantiated, or that contain false information, omit critical information, are exaggerated or are presented in an unclear, ambiguous and/or inaccurate manner – continues to be a major focus of scrutiny across all sectors, and the advertising industry is no exception.  The volume of statements and claims regarding the sustainability credentials of businesses’ goods and services, often made in the context of advertising and marketing, is increasing rapidly.

At the same time, the interests of regulators, consumers, and other stakeholders, in combatting misleading, “greenwashed” environmental claims has grown commensurately.  According to analysis conducted by the Independent, over the past 12 months alone, the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (“ASA“) has found 16 advertising campaigns to have exaggerated the green credentials of, or made unsubstantiated environmental claims about, the advertised brands.

As a consequence of this growing interest, the World Federation of Advertisers (“WFA“) – a global organisation that represents the common interests of advertisers and marketers – has issued landmark guidance on how brands can ensure that any environmental claims featured in their marketing communications are credible for both consumers and regulators (the “Guidance“).  The Guidance, produced with the support of the International Council for Advertising Self-Regulation, the European Advertising Standards Alliance and the UK’s ASA (amongst others), is the first guidance that has been issued at an international level with regard to making environmental claims, and represents a highly significant development in the context of growing efforts to combat greenwashing.

Continue Reading World Federation of Advertisers issues guidance on making credible environmental claims

The move towards consolidated, aligned, sustainability disclosure requirements, long identified as an essential element of sustainability efforts, took a major step forward last week.  On 24 March 2022, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (“IFRS Foundation”) and the Global Reporting Initiative (“GRI”) announced a collaboration agreement, the purpose of which is to seek to align their capital market and multi-stakeholder focussed sustainability disclosure regimes (the “Agreement“).  The Agreement represents the latest development in the IFRS Foundation’s efforts to consolidate the plethora of – sometimes disparate – international sustainability reporting regimes into a consolidated, more cohesive, framework, for the benefit of companies, investors and society at large.

Continue Reading International Sustainability Standards Board and Global Sustainability Standards Board to align their sustainability disclosure standards

The recent publication, on 27 February 2022, of the second instalment to the Sixth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC“) did not receive the same degree of attention as the first instalment in August 2021.  The findings, and message, of the second instalment, are no less severe, or potentially consequential, however, delivering as it does, the “bleakest warning yet” of the impacts of climate change.

The first instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group I, focused on the physical science basis of climate change.  The second instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group II, assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels.

The findings of the IPCC are, of course, deeply troubling in many respects, and the implications of those findings are likely to be extensive.  One area in which those implications are likely to be felt is that of climate litigation.  As explored in our previous article, the science based findings of the IPCC have played a role in affirming international legal standards on climate change and establishing the link between emissions and climate change, thereby – in some respects – strengthening the cases of climate litigants who may previously have encountered difficulties in establishing causation.  The ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis, and the willingness – and ability – of stakeholders to use litigation to compel action to address that crisis, will continue to be features of the landscape as attention focuses on the IPCC’s findings.

Continue Reading Climate Change Litigation: the IPCC’s latest Report links climate change to loss and damage

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 sheer volume of capital flows into sustainable, or ESG-focused, funds and products over recent months reflects the rapidly increasing number of investors with ESG-related preferences, or demands, when selecting those investments.  Evaluating, and comparing, the ESG credentials of different investment products presents significant difficulties, however, in circumstances where information and disclosures about those products – and even the terminology used – are, at best, inconsistent, and often incomplete; and, at worst, may attract accusations of “greenwashing”, by using marketing materials to mislead investors about the ESG approaches used in their products.

Continue Reading The CFA Institute releases Global ESG Disclosure Standards for Investment Products

In a significant development in the UK government’s drive towards “greening” the financial system, as part of the transition to a net zero carbon economy, HM Treasury published, on 18 October 2021, a policy paper entitled “Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing” (the “Roadmap“).  The Government’s Green Finance Strategy envisages three phases:

  1. Informing investors and consumers: Ensuring that decision-useful information on sustainability is available to financial decision-makers;
  2. Acting on the information: Mainstreaming sustainability considerations into business and financial decisions; and
  3. Shifting financial flows: Shifting capital to align with a net zero and nature positive economy.

The Roadmap focusses on delivering the first phase through the introduction of economy-wide Sustainable Disclosure Requirements (SDRs).  The SDRs aim to bring together existing and new sustainability disclosure requirements under one integrated framework for corporates, asset managers and asset owners, and creators of investment products.

But what obligations will these organisations be subject to under the new SDRs, and how can they best prepare themselves to comply with such obligations?

Continue Reading HM Treasury Publishes Its UK Sustainable Finance Roadmap

As interest in, and demand for, sustainable goods and services continue to increase rapidly, so too has the volume of statements, assertions and claims, often in the context of advertising, regarding the sustainability credentials of those goods and services.

In a further sign of the continued trend towards stricter regulation, and enforcement, in the context of so-called “greenwashing”, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently published its “Green Claims Code” (the “Code“), a guidance note for businesses on making environmental claims when advertising goods and services in the UK.

Continue Reading The UK’s CMA Publishes Guidance on Environmental Claims Used in Advertising

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