On 30 November 2022, the Council of the European Union (the “Council”) adopted its negotiating position on the European Commission’s proposal for a corporate sustainability and due diligence directive (the “Draft Directive”). As discussed in our previous blog posts (which you can read here and here), the proposed Draft Directive set out an EU standard for human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD”) and required EU member states to introduce legislation making in-scope companies responsible for violations of HREDD standards across their entire value chain. This meant that companies would have to conduct HREDD on their suppliers and clients, and could be held liable for how their products and services are used and disposed of. Although the fundamental principles of the proposed Directive remain intact, the Council’s suggested amendments to the Draft Directive do include some important changes.

Continue Reading Human Rights and the Environment – EU Council responds to the draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

On 23 November 2022, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (“EFRAG“) submitted the first set of draft EU Sustainability Reporting Standards (“ESRS“) to the European Commission.

As discussed in our previous blog post (which you can read here), the draft ESRS – which in-scope entities will be required to report against under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (“CSRD“) – were released on 29 April 2022 and made available for public consultation until 8 August 2022. Following the end of the public consultation, EFRAG amended the ESRS and approved updated versions on 16 November 2022. EFRAG subsequently submitted the updated draft ESRS to the European Commission.

The CSRD was adopted by the Council of the European Union on 28 November 2022, meaning the requirement to report against the ESRS will apply in stages from 2024, with first submissions due in 2025 (for more information on the CSRD, read our legal update here).

Continue Reading The European Financial Reporting Advisory Group submits draft European Sustainability Reporting Standards to the European Commission

On November 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) published a regulation entitled “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights” (the “Final Rule”). The Final Rule follows proposed rules regarding ESG investing and proxy voting by plan fiduciaries, issued on October 14, 2021 (the “Proposed Rule”) and amends prior regulations on the same topic issued by the DOL under President Trump in 2020 (the “2020 Rule”).

In the Final Rule, the DOL repeatedly emphasized that the regulation was primarily aimed at removing and remedying the chilling effect on ESG investing by plan fiduciaries created by the 2020 Rule. While the Final Rule takes a more permissive stance on the consideration of climate change and other ESG factors in investment decisions by plan fiduciaries than the 2020 Rule, the DOL cautioned that a plan fiduciary should not subordinate the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries to any collateral benefits (i.e., ESG objectives).

The Final Rule largely tracks the Proposed Rule, with a few notable exceptions summarized below.

Continue Reading DOL Finalizes Rule Regarding ESG Investing and Proxy Voting by Plan Fiduciaries

COP27 has now come to a close. Against the global backdrop of political and economic turbulence, many questions were asked as to what could realistically be expected as outcomes of COP27. We now have the answers to those questions.

Continue Reading COP27 Postscript – much ado about nothing?

On 10 November 2022, the EU Parliament adopted the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (“CSRD“). The EU Council is expected to adopt the CSRD on 28 November 2022, after which it will be published in the Official Journal. The CSRD will then enter into force 20 days after publication and EU member states will have 18

At the G20 Summit being held in Bali this week, Indonesia President Joko Widodo and the leaders of the International Partners Group (IPG), co-led by the United States and Japan, announced the launch of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP).  According to the joint statement released by IPG on 15 November 2022, the JETP aims

We are half way through COP27, so (disregarding the intersessionals that will take place during 2023), the negotiations will “soon” start to focus on Dubai, the venue for next year’s COP28 summit.  Who knows how much progress will be made before then.  One point to note is that COP27 is more of an “implementation” COP, rather than one with a more grandiose task, such as ramping up climate ambition.

Continue Reading Observations from the COP27 Halfway Point

During last year’s COP26, the UK Government announced that it would mandate the disclosure of listed companies’ and financial institutions’ net zero transition plan, and that it would form a taskforce to assist private sector actors in doing so.

Coinciding with the start of COP27, the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce (“TPT”) – a taskforce with a mandate from His Majesty’s Treasury to help enable private sector actors in the UK create robust climate transition plans to fulfil their net zero commitments – on 8 November 2022, published, for consultation, its new Disclosure Framework for companies to disclose their climate transition plans.

Importantly, the Disclosure Framework draws on existing and emerging disclosure regimes, such as the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (“TCFD”) Recommendations and the International Sustainability Standards Board’s (“ISSB”) Sustainability Disclosure Standards (for more information on the TCFD and ISSB regimes, read our previous blog posts here, here, here and here).

The TPT’s publication of its Disclosure Framework recommendations is supplemented by the TPT’s Implementation Guidance. The Implementation Guidance sets out practical steps to help private sector actors develop climate transition plans, as well as information on when, where and how to disclose such plans.

Continue Reading Climate Disclosure: the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce launches ‘gold standard’ for climate transition plans

The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) has opened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, against a global backdrop of massive hikes in energy prices, inflation, increases in interest rates and uncertainty about the robustness of the implementation of the ESG regulatory agenda (particularly in the US). In 2022, heat waves in Europe killed more than 15,000 people and nearly 1,700 died as a result of flooding in Pakistan. Hurricane Ian caused widespread devastation. A recent report by economist Nicholas Stern stated that $2 trillion (£1.75 trillion) per year will be needed by 2030 to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the effects of climate breakdown —switching away from fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy and other low-carbon technology, and coping with the impacts of extreme weather.

With existing commitments to climate finance yet to be met and national policies not yet consistent with the objective of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this year’s COP has its work cut out. What can realistically be hoped for as outcomes of COP27?

Continue Reading COP27: From Grey Glasgow to Sunny Sharm

The UK’s financial regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA“) – on 25 October 2022, published its “Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (“SDR“) and investments labels” Consultation Paper (CP 22/20) (the “Consultation Paper“).

This follows the FCA’s July 2021 “Dear AFM Chair” letter regarding improving the quality and clarity of authorised