As climate risk becomes even more of a focus in 2022, Weather Source thought it would be beneficial to do a deeper dive into the key segments of ESG and how businesses may be impacted by evolving mandates and compliance issues. We will be examining each of the segments – Environmental, Social and Governance – through a series of articles to examine how each may progress and what the potential impact will be on businesses and consumers. The first of this three-part series will focus on Environmental.
Needless to say, ESG is not just a buzzword and the requirements around ESG will become more complex and more difficult to navigate unless businesses start to wrap their heads around the subject matter. “The ESG landscape will become more complex in 2022, and in-house counsel and compliance professionals should be aware of emerging trends,” said Crowell & Moring’s Thomas A. Lorenzen and Elizabeth B. Dawson. They also performed a recent survey on the subject that we will highlight, which polled in-house counsel, sustainability professionals, compliance professionals, and others on how their companies are navigating ESG and environmental performance. They found that only about two-thirds of in-house counsel said they were ‘up to speed’ on environmental issues and understand their impact on the future of their company’s business.
With that said let’s look into what many are highlighting as the top ESG Environmental topics and themes for 2022.
Climate change continues to be a leading ESG consideration. The global transition towards a net zero economy is likely to continue at pace in 2022 and beyond with renewables projects and sustainable infrastructure worldwide continuing to be planned and developed. Many have watched countries struggle with how to rein in greenhouse gasses for decades and at COP26 this was yet again a main focus as many countries made pledges and agreements to end the use of coal, stop financing coal plants, support the development of clean technologies and to speed the development of clean technologies.
This spring the U.S. Supreme Court will be considering the extent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, this will help to decide the ability of the U.S. to make good on all of its goals and force businesses into compliance.
However, the Biden administration has set its sights on reductions in methane and HFCs which are gasses with higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. This alone is set to create a problem around compliance and mandates, as fewer than half of the companies reportedly track greenhouse gas emissions, according to Crowell & Moring’s survey.
Companies around the world are under pressure from stakeholders to not only develop initiatives for net zero carbon emissions objectives, but also to demonstrate progress toward those goals. Many businesses have begun to engage in carbon offsetting initiatives such as reforestation, landfill methane capture, wastewater treatment facilities, and investments in energy efficiency technology however, many businesses have not even begun this path.
This may be a new term to some, it is a term generally used when an organization spends more time and money advertising that they are ‘green’ or environmentally-friendly than actually putting into place practices that are environmentally-friendly. Some organizations may do this simply as a matter of public relations versus actually implementing sustainability and net zero carbon emission goals.
Although many feel that their companies are transparent and share accurate information (according to the survey), it seems that false advertising claims, and resulting lawsuits, are on the rise with allegations that companies are engaging in ‘greenwashing,’ and basically over-promising and under-performing regarding their environmental efforts.
The Federal Trade Commission will be reviewing its Green Guides in 2022 (for the first time in a decade) and continued pressure on companies to be able to substantiate what they put out for public consumption is expected. ESG investing is soaring and now makes up 33% of total U.S. assets under management. Investors will increasingly be considering ESG factors when evaluating companies. Therefore, putting forth a strong strategy around actual sustainability and net zero carbon goals will provide businesses access to larger and differentiated pools of capital.
According to the National Law Review, in 2022 the EPA is expected to issue significant guidance that has the potential to advance the Biden Administration’s environmental justice agenda. The document, “Guidelines for Cumulative Risk Assessment Planning and Problem Formation,” will provide a framework to analyze cumulative risk in situations of exposure to multiple environmental hazards. The guidance, which has been in the works for years, will be particularly important in assessing the impacts on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The guidance will be used in a broad range of environmental programs and is expected to impact cleanup priorities and enforcement decisions.
Furthermore, Crowell & Moring state that the Biden administration has been more deliberate than perhaps any administration before it in recognizing the outsized impact environmental stressors have on traditionally under-served communities. The administration has pledged to integrate social justice and economic opportunity considerations with environmental permitting and enforcement. In the coming year, companies may find themselves needing to gather additional data in anticipation of increased interest in the local impact of their operations, particularly where they operate in an area of more concentrated commercial activity.
ESG and climate disclosures seem to be moving from voluntary to mandatory, as over the past two years the E.U. and U.K. have taken steps to require businesses to disclose information. Although presently these voluntary disclosures, where companies can opt to disclose ESG metrics including climate-related risks, are something to watch as they are more than likely going to become mandatory.
Here in the U.S. many expect to see a proposed rule to come out of the Securities and Exchange Commission in early 2022 to require climate disclosures. The U.S. government seems to also be using its power to impose requirements on companies regardless of public-reporting status.
With all of that said, with a lot of the present activity and policy is speculation at this point, there are definite signs many of these items are quickly coming to fruition. In a recently published survey by PwC, 83% of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practices, 91% of business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues and 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.
It is imperative that businesses stay ahead of the curve of any potential mandates, rules and regulations by reviewing their current strategies and plans as well as keeping a keen eye on continued developments in the ESG realm as they impact each industry differently.
Weather Source continues to expand the product line-up within our Climate Risk Enterprise Group and we are poised to be a key consultant on weather-related issues as further mandates and compliance issues evolve to require comprehensive and accurate climate risk intelligence.
The structure of the Climate Risk Enterprise Group is to provide the groundwork for understanding and measuring the probability of weather phenomena across the globe for businesses in all industries. Using our depth of knowledge of historical weather teamed with current climate conditions we will be a key advisor for climate trends, mandates and compliance requirements moving into the future.
We are ready to talk to you about how we can help ready your business, reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.