Under the proposals, companies would need to disclose material information about all significant sustainability‑related risks and opportunities they are exposed to. The proposals would require disclosure of information about a company’s impacts and dependencies on people, the planet and the economy when relevant to the assessment of the company’s enterprise value. Firms would also be required to provide material information about their “significant climate-related risks and opportunities” to enable investors to assess the effect of climate-related risks and opportunities on their enterprise value.
Smith, who drafted Pinsent Masons’ response (44 pages / 644KB PDF) to the ISSB consultation, called for a staggered implementation timetable to allow the standards to be most effectively implemented and applied. She said: “Enough time must be given for entities to familiarise themselves with the standards and consideration given as to whether the most challenging reporting aspects could be introduced – at least to begin with – on a ‘comply or explain’ basis”.
She also recommended that the effective date of each sustainability disclosure standard be at least 12 months after the relevant final form of standard is published.
Euan McVicar of Pinsent Masons said: “There is a significant risk that the general requirements for sustainability-related disclosures are currently so broad that they will not be implemented consistently” and said there was a concern from individual jurisdictions and regulators that the current proposals might “overwhelm a significant number of reporting entities”. McVicar suggested bringing in the requirement to report on sustainability-related financial information related to specific disclosure topics only when the relevant specific topic disclosure standards have been published “so as not to overwhelm companies who may only now be coming to grips with climate-related financial disclosures”
Smith also said that the ISSB should prioritise the completion of its climate-related disclosure standards due to the immediate challenge posed by the global climate emergency, and urged the board to build on the work of the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) by drafting standards for nature-related disclosures to help tackle the loss of biodiversity around the world “as early as practicable”.
Smith called on the ISSB to publish more guidance on several areas of the proposed disclosure standards that reporting entities could find particularly challenging, including how to collect and analyse climate-related and sustainability-related data across the value chain, transition planning and carbon offsets, and financed and facilitated emissions for financial institutions. She said the ISSB should clarify several terms used throughout the proposals, including the use of “materiality” in relation to enterprise value, as well as the meaning of “sustainability-related”, and “significant” in the context of risks and opportunities.
Smith said more guidance was also needed on the assessment of trade-offs between different sustainability topics. “This is something which most reporting entities will not have considered before in reporting, and there are uncertainties as to how they can meaningfully assess and quantify trade-offs between very different sustainability topics.”
The consultation has now closed and the ISSB is reviewing the feedback it received. It said it plans to publish new standards by the end of 2022.