By Louis D Coppola @ G&A Institute..
I received an overwhelming response to the post on March 17, 2014 concerning the European Unions moves to make Sustainability / CSR reporting mandatory. For those of you that have not read my original post you can take a look here:
A question that came up a lot was whether or not this would apply to US companies operating in the European Union with more than 500 employees. This is a great question and although I had heard through the grapevine that it would apply, I did not feel certain enough to state that fact because I could not find an official statement or clause that I had found in draft directives. I had only heard this from other practitioners, in other articles etc that it would impact US companies.
Then I received an email from Carly Greenberg and Tim Smith at Boston Trust thanking me for the post, and calling my post “informative”. I am very fond of Tim Smith and a real fan of his tremendous work in driving SRI over his entire 40+ year career with ICCR and now with Walden Asset Management – I sometimes refer to him as one of the Godfathers (Hey – I’m Italian and from NY so.. forgive me ) of SRI so I was very humbled to get this email and I knew that I had to find the answer to this question. I consider myself lucky that over my relatively short career in Sustainability (14 years) Tim and I have crossed paths, shared panels, and discussed issues in some depth. He has truly impacted the field more than almost anyone (and continues to today), and has impacted my career / thoughts etc dramatically. (Thanks Tim!)
EUREKA! – I did find the copy of the draft directive itself and after reading through it with a fine toothed comb I came across a clause which I believe to be the smoking gun which was under section 3 “LEGAL ELEMENTS OF THE PROPOSAL” (the bold part is the important part):
The Accounting Directives regulate the information provided in the financial statements of all limited liability companies which are incorporated under the law of a Member State or European Economic Area (EEA). As Article 4(5) of the Transparency Directive refers to Article 46 of the Fourth Directive and to Article 36 of the Seventh Directive, the amendements proposed to these provisions will also cover companies listed on EU regulated markets even if they are registered in a third country.
Based on this clause, any company that trades on at least one of the many stock exchanges in the European Union (most global companies) which you can see in this list taken from a Wikipedia article number over 100+:
If you are a publicly traded company and trade on any of the exchanges above you will be affected by this directive.
Also, it is interesting to see that NYSE and NASDAQ both are represented in some ways on this list above. For example NYSE and Euronext are owned by the same parent company – The IntercontinentalExchange Group (ICE). Euronext has connections to the markets in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the UK.
The NASDAQ OMX seems to have its name (both OMX and NASDAQ) associated with several exchanges above including Armenia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Sweden etc.
I’m not sure how these connections tie into this directive, but I think its interesting to point them out as the world becomes more global and exchanges become truly global how do regulations like the EU directive, with the clause above effect these global exchanges? And what does that mean going forward?
It gets even more interesting when you look at the fact that the NYSE and the NASDAQ are both signatories of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative (SSEI): http://www.sseinitiative.org/.
The initiative comes from a collaboration between PRI, UNEP, UNCTAD, and UNGC and many of the partners in the initiative already have listing requirements for Sustainability reporting (ex, JSE , BM&F Bovespa).
To become a partner exchange SSEI asks that the exchange publicly endorses the following statement:
We voluntarily commit, through dialogue with investors, companies and regulators, to promoting long term sustainable investment and improved environmental, social and corporate governance disclosure and performance among companies listed on our exchange.
They have also both done their own GRI Sustainability Reports:
BREAKING NEWS out of Boston (Mar 26th, 2014) – as I write this article CERES, BlackRock (the largest asset manager in the world) and other major institutional investors released their recommendations for listing requirements on exchanges titled:
Investor Listing Standards Proposal: Recommendations for Stock Exchange Requirements on Corporate Sustainability Reporting
These standards will be sent directly to the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE – the trade group for exchanges) who has launched a Sustainability Working Group to discuss and debate sustainability disclosure issues with member exchanges (virtually all global exchanges in the world).
Here’s what NASDAQ had to say:
“We need a joint solution that will help bring more consistent and comparable information to all markets, and will not leave any one exchange at a competitive disadvantage for taking leadership in this space,” NASDAQ OMX CEO Robert Greifeld said, speaking of the sustainability disclosure engagement process. NASDAQ OMX and Ceres have been working together for almost two years on this issue.
NASDAQ OMX Vice Chairman Meyer “Sandy” Frucher stressed, “What we hope comes out of this process is strong support by exchanges around the globe to move together to create a more uniform approach to sustainability reporting.
“We committed last year, at the urging of institutional investors within Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk, to provide thought leadership for our listed companies on sustainability reporting guidance,” Frucher continued. “To provide us with greater clarity on what investors want in such guidance, INCR, with support from the Principles for Responsible Investment, launched a global consultation among investors, and presented us with a proposal that we are now discussing with other exchanges.”
Here’s what BlackRock had to say:
“Cross border collaboration by stock exchanges will help shift public companies towards more comparable and meaningful disclosure of ESG (environmental, social and governance) risk factors,” said Gwen Le Berre, Vice President of Corporate Governance and Responsible Investment at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $4.3 trillion in assets under management. “This will enable investors to more accurately value companies and make better informed investment decisions.”
Here is the full release which has many other quotes from very important people in very important places demonstrating their commitment to moving this forward:
To read the release on the WFE launching its Sustainability Working Group, visit: http://www.
The following exchanges came together to initially launch the WG:
- Borsa Istanbul
- Borsa Malaysia
- Deutsche Börse
- InterContinental Exchange/NYSE
- Johannesburg Stock Exchange
- NASDAQ OMX
- National Stock Exchange of India
- Shenzhen Stock Exchange
So when you take all of this into account, why are you still reading this article, and why haven’t you already started working with me to get started on Sustainability reporting? 😉
That was a joke of course, but seriously – one way or another you will be affected – so get in front of these coming regulations/mandates because if you are not, you will be scrambling to get in compliance, and in a position of weakness compared to any competitors that are already doing it. If you are already reporting, kudos to you, and you will be in a position of strength against your competitors – you have strategically positioned yourself well in the new global environment. Just make sure you are covering all your bases and your reporting is in-line with whats expected and global standards.
This is not to mention the additional pressures for disclosure and transparency coming from:
- Key Customers
- and other Stakeholders
Which I could write a whole additional book about.
I think its clear to see that the question is not SHOULD you start reporting, its HOW will you get started as quickly as possible. Your window of opportunity to be prepared is closing, and the time is now to move on this if you have been questioning whether or not to get started.
At G&A we continue to watch these trends shaping the global markets. We position ourselves at the intersection of corporations and the capital market. We monitor the groups that shaping corporate valuation and reputation in today’s modern global marketplace. If you have any questions or would like to talk more about these topics please reach out to me at email@example.com.
Louis D Coppola
For your reference here is a copy of the EU draft directive in full:
And Here is the EU portal for non-financial disclosures: