Why the corporate world is embracing a more sustainable economic model

The G20 Task Force’s new recommendations on climate-related financial disclosures have put the spotlight on the need for more transparent reporting of climate risks and opportunities — and CPA Canada is playing a critical role in the process.

Last June, much of the world’s attention turned to the United States’ decision to abandon the Paris Agreement. There was concern worldwide that the international climate accord—signed two years ago in November, with unprecedented support from 195 signatory nations—was in peril. Yet in the days leading up to and following the U.S. announcement on June 1, 2017, a surprising thing happened: top CEOs from multinational corporations, including major carbon emitters in the U.S., spoke out in favour of the accord and continued American participation.

Now more than ever, business leaders understand the importance of global engagement—and working collaboratively toward a more sustainable and resilient economy. That’s why the Financial Stability Board established the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures in December 2015— to help businesses disclose climate-related financial information, and thus help investors to know which companies are most at risk from climate change, which are best prepared, and which are taking action. The task force, chaired by former New York City mayor and businessman Michael R. Bloomberg, released its final report on June 15th—just two weeks after the U.S. announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

CPA Canada recognizes the pivotal role that boards and c-suite executives play in driving a more sustainable economy. We have been proud to engage in the task force efforts—hosting an information session last year in Toronto, which brought together Canadian business and investment communities to learn about the work of the task force—and have participated actively in the ensuing dialogue and consultation process.

In its final report—presented at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, this past July— the task force made four key recommendations, covering governance, strategy, risk management and metrics. Specifically, the task force recommended disclosing:

  • an organization’s governance around climate-related risks and opportunities
  • the actual and potential impacts of climate-related risks, and opportunities on the organization’s businesses, strategy and financial planning (where such information is material)
  • how an organization identifies, assesses and manages climate-related risks
  • what metrics and targets are used to assess and manage relevant climate-related risks and opportunities (again, where such information is material)

CPA Canada supports the recommendations of the G20 Task Force’s report. In fact, they reinforce a message that has been central to Canada’s accounting professionals for almost 25 years—that we cannot make effective financial decisions without a sound understanding of climate change and its economic and social implications for business.

Recently, CPA Canada released a report titled “State of Play: Study of Climate-Related Disclosures of Canadian Public Companies,” which examined disclosures of TSX-listed companies in their securities filings. Among the report’s findings: the majority (79 per cent) of companies are making climate-related disclosures, but the nature and extent varies; less than one third (29 per cent) of companies made specific disclosure of board or senior management oversight of climate-related issues; and that only 31 per cent of companies made disclosures related to physical risks of climate change.

Clearly, Canadian companies—like their global counterparts—are starting to make progress on the issue of climate change. And, as adoption of and support for global agreements like the Paris Accord prove, there is an appetite for more certainty on how businesses deal with the issue. Yet, as both our report and recent political events also prove, much more needs to be done. CPA Canada stands foursquare with our international colleagues to engage in this important debate and provide a critical education role.

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What are your thoughts on the financial impact of climate change and reporting requirements? Post a comment below.

About the Author

Gord Beal, CPA, CA, M.Ed.

Vice-president, Research, Guidance and Support, CPA Canada

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Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) applauds the effort of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to provide a foundation for more relevant and globally consistent corporate reporting on climate change issues.