Proposed sustainability disclosure rules are impacting the recruitment actions of major corporations, that’s according to a new research piece by the Financial Education & Research Foundation (FERF) and Persefoni. With proposed climate disclosure mandates from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) looming, FERF and Persefoni have explored the impact on US corporations as they prepare. Their latest study has surveyed over 50 chief accounting officers and controllers at listed US firms[i], and discovered that the majority (66%) were planning to increase their staff headcount to support climate reporting over the next 12 months, whether that be with full-time employees, external consultants, or both. When asked to name the most in-demand skill for their future hiring, more than two-thirds (68%) of survey respondents cited internal controls for ESG reporting, followed by sustainability disclosure preparation at (53%), and regulatory landscape knowledge at (50%)[ii].
Persefoni’s chief sustainability officer Kristina Wyatt has been quoted by Edie.net as saying: “As we move from a voluntary to a regulated reporting environment, companies will need to focus on ensuring that the data they are reporting is sound and backed by appropriate procedures and controls so companies are able to show how they derived the information they are reporting to investors.”[iii] She added: “Building strong internal controls over climate information will help ensure the information reported is complete and accurate. Companies will necessarily be much more focused on the integrity of their climate data as they move from disclosing in voluntary sustainability reports to SEC filings.”[iv]
The planned sustainability recruitment by US firms follows news that the SEC are likely to agree the climate disclosure changes next year[v]. The SEC is proposing to mandate standardised emissions disclosures across Scopes 1-3, with Scope 3 initially only being a focus for the largest firms. With the ruling now increasingly looking set to be pushed into next year, there are also rumours that the SEC could backtrack on its plans to include scope 3 emissions[vi]. This is in response to lobbying by corporations. Regardless, the incoming SEC ruling means that firms have to start planning their reporting processes now, whether this means hiring new talent with the necessary reporting skills, or training up current staff. FERF and Persefoni’s study found that 53% of US corporations are already upskilling members of the finance team to support climate reporting, with a further 25% saying they have plans to.
The US isn’t alone in introducing new sustainability reporting measures, in the EU the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) came into force on the 5th of January 2023. The CSRD requires that from the financial year 2024, 50,000 affected companies will need to report more broadly on environmental matters, social responsibility, human rights, anti-corruption measures, and board diversity. This aims to address the key structural weaknesses of ESG regulation and reporting and create more transparency regarding the impact of companies on people and the environment.
The proactivity by US corporations to prepare for reporting contrasts to those in the EU ahead of new CSRD, where a study in August found that almost eight in ten businesses have not started preparing. The study by VinciWorks found that of the 175 ESG reporting and strategy leaders surveyed, only half believed that their business was likely to fall within the CSRD mandate. Furthermore, less than a quarter (23%) of the businesses surveyed said they have started to prepare to report in line with the CSRD. Additionally, 29% of businesses are planning to start preparing within the next six months. CSRD requirements will apply from 1st January 2024 for businesses already subject to the EU’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). The mandate will then expand to cover other large businesses from 1st January 2025. Businesses will need to report if they have more than 250 employees and either assets exceeding €20m or revenue exceeding €40m.
In addition, the preparation by US corporations could set them in good stead for theses incoming EU regulations, should they operate internationally. We noted in our previous insight that the CSRD will impact non-EU companies that have a considerable presence in the EU (those with a net revenue of $150 million in the EU for each of the last two consecutive years and a listed EU subsidiary that generated a net turnover greater than $40 million in the preceding year[vii].
Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”