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How are the new terrain of the SEC Climate Disclosure Rule and the U.S. National Action Plan shaping the business landscape?

April 4, 2024
The new terrain of the SEC Climate Disclosure Rule and the U.S. National Action Plan shaping the business landscape

The landscape of corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability is undergoing a significant transformation in the United States, spearheaded by two pivotal initiatives: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) climate disclosure rule and the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct. These initiatives aim to promote transparency, accountability, and sustainability in business practices, albeit with different focal points and objectives.

The SEC climate disclosure rule was born out of a growing recognition of the financial and operational risks that climate change poses to companies and their investors. The rule reflects an evolving market landscape where sustainability is intertwined with financial performance.

While the SEC rule focuses on climate disclosures, the National Action Plan addresses a broader range of ethical business practices. It promotes adherence to standards in areas like human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. This holistic approach aims to embed responsible conduct into the corporate ethos, beyond mere compliance.

The SEC climate disclosure rule and the National Action Plan while distinct, are complementary. They both highlight the U.S. government’s approach to integrating responsible business conduct into the core of corporate governance. They emphasize the importance of due diligence, stakeholder engagement, and transparent reporting.

Challenges of the SEC Climate Disclosure Rule

Adopted on March 6, 2024, the SEC’s climate disclosure rule mandates enhanced and standardized climate-related disclosures by public companies. This regulation is designed to provide investors with consistent, reliable, and comparable information about the financial effects of climate-related risks on a company’s operations. Significant aspects of the rule include the requirement for large accelerated filers to disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, albeit with a phased approach to compliance and assurance requirements.

Companies may struggle to accurately measure and report direct and indirect GHG emissions due to their complex and broad nature. Gathering reliable and detailed data on indirect emissions (Scope 3) can be challenging. In addition, implementing the systems and processes necessary to comply with the rule may require significant financial and human resources. As the rule is relatively new, there may be uncertainties regarding its interpretation, enforcement, and potential legal challenges. Especially for multinational companies that may have different or conflicting climate disclosure standards, alignment may be even more complicated, with the risk of greenwashing always in the corner.

The rule aims to strike a balance between the need for transparency in climate-related risks and the operational and financial burden of compliance on companies. Companies must navigate these uncertainties while trying to comply.

Strategic Framework of the National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct

The plan leverages existing regulations, like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, to enforce standards. These regulations serve as tools to combat unethical business practices globally. It outlines strategic actions and commitments in areas such as federal procurement, access to remedy, technology, and workers’ rights, aiming to improve business conduct in the face of evolving global challenges. The plan also highlights the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement, government coordination, and providing resources and guidance to businesses to ensure responsible conduct across their value chains.

As companies navigate these evolving landscapes, they must prioritize robust compliance mechanisms to meet regulatory expectations. Now you have the opportunity to develop the most effective strategies to comply with the new regulatory challenges and get the latest insights. Join in our upcoming USA | Certified Sustainability (ESG) Practitioner Program, Leadership Edition 2024, Digital Version with Live Zoom Sessions, on May 9-10 & 13, 2024 to get the necessary tools and knowledge to not only meet regulatory requirements but also gain a competitive advantage.


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