SEC’s climate rule heats up debate on supply chain emissions | Business News

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WASHINGTON — The business world is divided over whether the Securities and Exchange Commission should require emissions data from corporations’ suppliers and customers when the agency finalizes a rule on climate-related financial risk disclosure.

While the SEC sees broad support for its proposed rule to mandate standardized information on companies’ direct emissions and other material risks from climate change, agency staff members reviewing comments face a difficult task in striking a balance in the coming months on emissions from suppliers and other third parties.

A wide range of billion-dollar asset managers, investor coalitions and boutique firms focused on environmental, social and governance investing told the SEC they support the agency’s provisions to include Scope 3 emissions, meaning indirect releases from supply chains. But several trade groups say there is strong opposition.

“The SEC has also taken the correct approach by incorporating many of the elements set forth by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and by requiring disclosure of [greenhouse gas] emissions, including disclosure (for many companies) of Scope 3 emissions and third-party assurance of Scopes 1 and 2 emissions,” Ceres, a nonprofit organization that works with ESG investors and companies to address climate risk and other sustainability issues in capital markets, said Friday in a letter to the SEC.

Other supporters include BNP Paribas, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management, Seventh Generation Interfaith Inc. and Christian Brothers Investment Services Inc.

“As a starting point, the basis for the rulemaking initiative — that climate change poses a significant financial risk — is surely clear and unmistakable,” Ceres said in the letter. “It is likewise reasonable for the Commission to conclude that this risk is, or can be, material to investors. This is not a matter of conjecture; investors have repeatedly and emphatically expressed this view.”

 

If finalized, the rule would require public companies to report to the SEC on Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions, which address direct and indirect emissions from purchased electricity and other forms of energy.

But they would have to report Scope 3 emissions only if they are material or if companies have set reduction goals that include Scope 3. The proposal contains a broad safe harbor for liability for Scope 3 emissions disclosure and exemption for smaller issuers on Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 3 challenge

Scope 3 emissions have been a particularly controversial area in the proposal. During the agency’s information-gathering period, companies and industry coalitions voiced concern about lawsuits over emissions outside of companies’ direct control. Some legal experts have said the proposal’s provisions surrounding Scope 3 emissions would indirectly create disclosure requirements for third-party, nonpublic companies that work with major public corporations.

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