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Artikel

18 Jan 2022

Autor:
Frank Bold

Research finds barriers to supervision & lack of transparency in how national authorities enforce disclosure obligations introduced by EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive

"Improving climate and sustainability corporate disclosure policies to enable sustainable finance: Enforcement activities Summary report EUKI Research 2020", 18 January 2022

Frank Bold analysed the climate, environmental and governance disclosures of 300 companies in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. The companies were selected from industries that significantly contribute to climate change and from countries that lag behind in climate action and the transition to a low-carbon economy. The results show that only a minority of companies provide sufficiently detailed information on climate (approx. 30%) and on other environmental issues (approx. 10%), that allows to understand their development, position, performance and impact as expected by the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive (EU NFRD). 

Consequently, Frank Bold has assessed which of the analysed reports fails to provide any climate-related information on specific aspects explicitly required in the EU NFRD, taking into account ESMA’s enforcement priorities, which call for the disclosure of: 

  • physical and transition risks related to climate change, provided for different time horizons, 
  • mitigating actions put in place in the context of business models and environmental policies, 
  • targets that companies are pursuing in this area. 

All companies included in the research were selected from high climate risk and impact industries, where climate can be considered by default as a material sustainability issue.

Approximately 70 companies (23 %) failed to provide any information, or provided only insufficient information on mandatory NFRD categories, including a non-financial statement as a whole, climate-related and other environmental policies, and climate-related and other environmental KPIs. From this pool, Frank Bold selected the worst 31 non-financial statements and submitted formal requests to the respective national enforcement authorities. 

Even though the EU NFRD requires Member States to ensure that effective means of enforcement are put in place, no authority indicated it would take any action beyond initial examination that could lead to sanctions or formal notifications of the companies.

Moreover, most Member States do not provide a transparent procedure that allows for the examination of authorities’ actions or provide any rights to stakeholders raising complaints.

Frank Bold´s research and experience with enforcement authorities point to the inconsistent transposition of the EU NFRD resulting in different requirements and conditions for companies in different countries, and a generally unbalanced approach of enforcement authorities across the EU.

The following barriers to effective supervision and enforcement by national authorities should be addressed in the revision of the EU NFRD:

  • The flexible nature and vagueness of the reporting requirements lead authorities to believe that they cannot examine the quality of the disclosed information, or even take action in the most obvious cases of mis-compliance, such as absence of any climate-related information. Therefore, the upcoming EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive - aimed at reforming and improving the EU NFRD - should provide detailed reporting requirements and corresponding standards.
  • In most Member States, there is a lack of clarity on which authorities have a mandate to provide supervision and enforcement of corporate sustainability disclosures. This can be rectified through the creation of an EU-wide database of enforcement authorities.
  • There is a general lack of transparency in the proceedings and absence of any procedural rights granted to stakeholders, including in particular the right to receive a response by a certain deadline and the right to information on the actions taken by the authorities and their results. In this regard, the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive should specify the legal mandate for supervision and enforcement, including the investigative actions and sanctions for specific cases of mis-compliance, as well as procedural rights of stakeholders who submit the complaints...

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