Europe's Biggest Companies Display An Absence Of Strategy On Climate Risk - Report
The next step in the identification of a risk by a listed business could reasonably be assumed by its stakeholders to be taking urgent steps towards its mitigation.
But, although environmental risk is climbing ever higher on the agenda of investors, less than half (44%) of the 80 biggest publicly listed companies in Europe (representing $3.7 trillion in market capitalisation) currently explain in their management reports how their business models are affected by climate change or environmental challenges. The bulk - 80% - do not prepare a specific climate change strategy to mitigate these risks.
These are the findings in a new review of company reporting under the EU’s flagship environmental reporting law, the Non-Financial Reporting (NFR) Directive by the environmental non-profit the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), launched today in Brussels.
It analyses how far current reporting practices align with the recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which is seen as offering best practice in climate change reporting and is endorsed by the European Commission.
While 30 companies (38%) reference the TCFD in their annual report, only 15% mention climate change specifically, as the TCFD recommends.
“To scale up the adoption of the TCFD at the pace and quality needed to bring a realistic picture of climate-related financial risk to the market, mandatory implementation of the 11 recommended disclosures is needed” said Mardi Mcbrien, Managing Director, CDSB.
I have covered the FSB TCFD since it was first launched, and you will find that coverage on Forbes in 2017 and in 2016, more than once or twice on the TCFD site - so you could say it is a subject dear to my heart.
From a UK perspective, this is a chance to pat business on the back for its leadership - alongside France - on climate risk disclosure. All French and UK company reports include current emissions, for example, compared to 56% in Germany and 81% across the EU. But French companies lead (57%) on referencing to climate or environmental issues in their business models.
Transition risk - such as future regulation and policy changes - is ignored by the majority of businesses, it seems: only 41% of company reports disclose such risks, according to the report.
Yet 60% of companies it surveyed disclose that responsibility for environmental issues sits with a board member. Interestingly, some firms also now link environmental or climate targets to management remuneration.
On the Environmental, Societal and Governance (ESG) issues that we have watched rise steadily in focus among investors and all stakeholders in publicly listed businesses over the last decade, this issue of specific management board responsibility - be it on gender, diversity, cybersecurity or supply chain issues - returns again and again, as the means to bring about real change.
The remuneration link, however, is innovative. Perhaps we need more of that kind of thinking. The last post on Board Talk was about asset management and social purpose but in the end, regardless of the business and industry sector, both transparency and trust are critical.
The financial services industry in 2018 offers us a decade-long legacy of what can happen when trust evaporates, with ample evidence of just how hard it is to re-establish, once it is gone. The European Commission has noted that 50% of the exposure of Euro area banks to risk is either directly or indirectly related to climate change related risks, according to this report.
It might be time for businesses to join the dots between financial incentives, behaviour and business culture, and responsibility held to account; between concrete action on the mitigation of climate risk and remuneration, as a means of concentrating minds on the urgency of this matter.
Reporting inconsistencies as outlined in this report can only result in savvy investors becoming wary while paying lip service to the issue of acting on climate risk is unlikely to go down well with the stakeholders concerned, particularly millenials.
Image: Kota Garut, Indonesia