Trend Toward Prescriptive ESG Disclosures and Tips for How Companies Can Satisfy the Existing Materiality Standard (Part Two of Two)

Absent fixed statutory criteria, fund managers and companies merely need to meet a materiality standard for determining what risks, conflicts and other information to disclose to investors and shareholders, respectively. That same materiality standard currently applies to environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures, although there is less clarity around what information qualifies thereunder. As investors push fund managers and companies to increase the ESG disclosures under that materiality standard, the SEC and other regulators are simultaneously working feverishly to develop more prescriptive ESG disclosure requirements. In a two-part guest series, Andrew King, partner at ESG Ventures, outlines the current state of ESG regulatory efforts and relevant issues for fund managers to consider. This second article describes the materiality standard for ESG disclosures, offers guidance for companies to comply with the standard and forecasts whether the SEC will issue prescriptive ESG disclosure parameters. The first article surveyed the ESG movement based on the U.S.’ and E.U.’s recent efforts, as well as highlighted the conflicting views among current SEC commissioners about how to regulate ESG investing. For additional commentary from King, see our two-part series: “The Convergence of ESG Regulatory Alignment and Corporate Responsibilities in the U.S.” (May. 25, 2021); and “Adoption of ESG Voluntary Standards By Fund Managers to Overcome U.S. Regulatory Shortcomings and Bolster ESG Defensibility” (Jun. 1, 2021).

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