EU policy-makers agree on new social & environmental reporting rules for companies
On 21 April 2021, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The proposal revises existing rules introduced by the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) and proposes the development of mandatory European sustainability reporting standards (ESRS).
NGOs welcomed the changes as key to achieve objectives set in the European Green Deal and sustainable finance agenda, but called for policymakers to address key gaps such as the exclusion of private SMEs and failure to specify essential aspects that EU standards need to address in particular with regard to reporting on human rights. EU Parliament and Council will negotiate the final text in the coming months.
On 21 June 2022, the European Parliament and EU governments agreed on the new EU sustainability reporting requirements. The rules will apply to all large companies (with over 250 employees and a 40 million euro turnover), as well as non-EU companies with substantial activity in the EU market (150 million euro in annual turnover in the EU) and a handful of SMEs listed on public markets with lighter reporting standards.
Under the CSRD, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) is tasked with developing draft ESRS. Following a public consultation, it published the first set of draft standards in November 2022, which set out cross-cutting standards and standards for the disclosure of environmental, social and governance information. Sector-specific standards are to follow.
On 9 June 2023, the European Commission published for public consultation a draft Delegated Act on the first set of ESRS. NGOs said they were concerned with the significant reduction in ambition compared to EFRAG’s technical advice and urged the Commission to introduce a robust, mandatory and consistent reporting framework.
On 31 July 2023, the European Commission adopted the European Sustainability Reporting Standards in the form of a Delegated Act, confirming the watered-down requirements.
EFRAG started working on sector-specific standards in 2022 but paused in spring 2023, as it was requested by the Commission to prioritise other work on the implementation of the first set of sector-agnostic EU standards. Parliament and Council negotiators agreed to delay adoption of sector-specific sustainability reporting standards by two years in January 2024, although MEPs ensured that the Commission will strive to publish sector-specific sustainability reporting standards in eight areas as soon as they are ready before the deadline.