Companies must recognise that they are subject to increased expectations in terms of effective identification and management of social issues. A failure to do so – and the resulting inequality – is increasingly seen as representing a systemic risk to the resilience of business operations and value chains. Expectations are reinforced by the wave of new due diligence regulations and reporting standards focussed on addressing both the ‘E’ and ‘S’ in ESG (see, for example, our earlier blog posts on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive here, as well as on the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s Greenwashing rules here).

CFOs have a critical role in communicating how companies are addressing wider social issues linked to their business operations and ensuring companies’ compliance with related regulations and reporting standards. To help CFOs execute this role effectively, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (the “WBCSD“) and Shift have released a primer for CFOs for advancing the ‘S’ in ESG (the “Report“). The Report aims to provide a starting point for CFOs working to address the demands and challenges associated with the ‘S’ in ESG, covering both an overview of the what, the who and the how of corporate social performance and key recommendations for improving the measurement of that performance.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – a “primer” for CFOs for advancing the ‘S’ in ESG

On 28 February 2023, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the creation of the European Green Bond Standard (“EU GBS“).

Continue Reading Alert – Council of the EU and European Parliament reach provisional agreement on European Green Bond Standard

In what marks its latest move to tackle modern slavery, on 10 February 2023, the UK Government published its new guide for commercial and procurement professionals, entitled “Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains” (the “Guidance”). The Guidance is aimed at helping procurement and commercial practitioners at all levels who are operating in government comply with their statutory obligations in respect of modern slavery. It builds on the UK Government’s “Slavery and human trafficking in supply chains: guidance for businesses” and its modern slavery statement Progress Report.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – the UK Government publishes new guidance on tackling modern slavery in Government Supply Chains

A recent attention-grabbing report by the Guardian, Die Zeit and SourceMaterial claimed that “more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless“. This prompted a swift detailed rebuttal by Verra – the world’s largest certifier of offsets and the organization subject to the criticism – who argued that the Guardian’s

On 26 January 2023, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (the “CMA“) announced that it intends to investigate the accuracy of environmental claims made by businesses in the fast-moving consumer goods (“FMCG”) sector. The CMA has stated that it will examine claims made both online and in-store about household products – such as food and drink, cleaning, homecare and self-care products – to determine whether they comply with UK consumer protection law.

The investigation of goods in the FMCG sector will expand the scope of the CMA’s ongoing anti-greenwashing work, which has the ultimate aim of ensuring products and services that claim to be ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ are being marketed to consumers accurately.

Continue Reading Greenwashing: UK competition watchdog to investigate the FMCG sector

On 31 January 2023, the UK Government published its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 (the “EIP”), detailing how it plans to restore nature and improve environmental quality in the UK. In particular, the EIP proposes new commitments to upgrade wastewater treatment works, restore wildlife and promote nature-friendly farming practices. These new commitments underpin the ambitious international targets agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 in December 2022, which the UK Government helped deliver (for further information about COP15, read our earlier blog post here).

The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has said that the EIP “provides the blueprint for how we deliver our commitment to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, making sure we drive forward progress with renewed ambition and achieve our target of not just halting, but reversing the decline of nature“.

Continue Reading UK Government publishes refreshed plans to improve environmental quality and reverse nature decline

On 24 January 2023, each of the European Parliament’s trade committee and economic affairs committee reached agreed positions on the financial aspects of the draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (the “Draft Directive”). The agreed positions mark a departure from the European Commission’s and the Council of the European Union’s previous positions on the

FTSE Russell – a leading provider of benchmarks that are used extensively by investors across the globe – has removed 34 companies from the FTSE4 Good All-World benchmark (the “FTSE4Good Index”). The companies were removed for failing to meet climate performance standards imposed by the newly introduced ‘Climate Change Score’ system, which is based on parameters created by the Transition Pathway Initiative (“TPI”), an initiative backed by 132 investors with over US$50 trillion in assets under management.

Continue Reading Climate performance – FTSE4Good Index looks to hold companies to higher environmental standards

By far the largest focus in recent years in terms of ‘responsible investment’ has been on the ‘Environment’ limb of ESG. The UN Principles of Responsible Investment (“PRI“) – an international organisation working to encourage the integration of ESG factors into investment decision making – is now seeking to change this with the launch of its ‘Advance‘ initiative, which is a “collaborative stewardship initiative where institutional investors work together to take action on human rights and social issues”. This forms part of a renewed effort to reinvigorate the ‘Social’ and ‘Governance’ limbs to ESG and bring social initiatives to the forefront of ‘responsible investing’.

Continue Reading Business and human rights: investors commit to action on human rights and social issues via the world’s largest human rights stewardship initiative

Regulators are increasingly mandating companies to make environmental disclosures (see here, here and here).

The CDP – a not-for-profit organisation aiming to encourage the disclosure of environmental risk – has measured and scored the effectiveness of companies’ 2022 environmental disclosures in their latest ‘A List’ Report (the “CDP Report”). The CDP Report shows that a mere 12 of the 18,700 companies that responded to the CDP’s questionnaires scored a ‘triple A’ for their environmental disclosures, whilst over 29,500 companies scored an ‘F’ after failing to provide any data to the CDP.

According to the CDP, over 680 investors with combined assets of US $130 trillion, and over 280 large purchasers with US $6.4 trillion in buying power requested over 48,000 companies to disclose environmental information through the CDP in 2022. 

Continue Reading Mandatory Disclosure: companies’ environmental disclosures analysed in the CDP’s 2022 ‘A List’ Report