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SEC Investor Advisory Committee Outlines Plan to Address Environmental, Social, and Governance Issues

Published on: 22 Feb 2010

Today, in an open meeting, the SEC Investor Advisory Committee (the “Committee”) discussed its plans to address various environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. The Committee summarized its past activities and discussed upcoming efforts, including the following:

  • Approval in January 2010 of a six-month work plan.
  • Plans to begin meeting with the SEC staff to understand its views and the activities it has undertaken.
  • Plans in April 2010 to bring in experts and have discussions on the benefits of ESG disclosures, including long-term risk management.
  • Plans to look into U.S. accounting standards and how they relate to ESG liabilities, including an analysis of the U.S. market and other markets.
  • Plans in June 2010 to look at ESG reporting formats and approaches, including the global reporting initiative, key-indicator approaches and trends, and corporate sustainability.
  • Plans to hold public hearings in the summer of 2010.
  • Goal of September 2010 to submit a statement to the SEC with specific recommendations and a white paper with considerations.

The Committee also highlighted the following additional considerations:

  • The European Commission (EC) is conducting similar efforts. The EC has had six public hearings consisting primarily of fact finding and in which no decision has been made on how it will move forward. The Committee would continue to monitor the activity of the EC.
  • Efforts will be holistic; the Committee will look at ESG issues broadly and will evaluate executive compensation.
  • Voiced concerns that the current accounting financial reporting system may not be reflecting ESG issues properly.

The Committee also shared its views on the SEC’s February 2 interpretive release, which provided guidance on disclosures related to climate change. The Committee noted that the interpretive release was useful, particularly regarding guidance on materiality in general. In addition, the Committee pointed out that the release acknowledges that material information is already being provided in voluntary reports, such as the carbon disclosure project and the global reporting initiative, but not in SEC filings.

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