BLB&G Real Time Speaker Series: Institutional Investor Focus on Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change and Sustainability Risks and Practices

March 17, 2016

A Conversation with Jim Coburn, Senior Manager of Ceres, and
Andrew Collins, Director of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

On March 17, 2016, BLB&G attorneys Benjamin Galdston and Lucas Gilmore were joined by Mr. Coburn and Mr. Collins for a discussion of their efforts to improve sustainable practices and risk disclosures.  

Climate change and its regulation pose significant and increased risks to public companies’ operations and financial results.  Since 1980, weather and climate disasters have caused losses of over $1 trillion in the U.S., alone.  Experts predict these climate change-related costs will only continue to intensify.  Moreover, new climate-related federal and state regulations have dramatically impacted the electric power, coal, oil and gas, transportation and insurance industries.

Despite these known trends, it is estimated that more than 75% of public companies fail to make adequate disclosures regarding climate and sustainability risks.  While the S.E.C. issued guidance in 2010 regarding how public companies should address and report material risks posed by climate change, the SEC has yet to pursue any formal enforcement action.  As a result, investors have suffered enormous losses when the undisclosed sustainability and climate risks materialize.

Institutional investor, policymakers and public interest groups are demanding improved corporate disclosure regarding climate and sustainability issues.  BLB&G’s Speaker Series welcomes leaders from Ceres and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”) who are at the forefront of this movement.

Jim Coburn serves as Senior Manager of the Investor Program at Ceres, the nation’s foremost non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership for the past 25 years.  Mr. Coburn directs Ceres’ efforts to improve mandatory climate risk disclosure by corporations, and has been instrumental in developing and promoting reporting rules and guidance that strengthen corporate risk management practices and improve investor decisions.  He was instrumental in efforts that resulted in the SEC’s 2010 groundbreaking corporate climate risk disclosure guidance.

Andrew Collins manages development of SASB’s sustainability accounting metrics and standards.  The SASB is developing sustainability accounting standards for 79 industries in 10 sectors, pursuant to which U.S. public companies can disclose “material” sustainability information in their regular SEC-filed reports.  For more information about SASB and its recently released Climate Framework, click here.