Press release

4 Nov 2022

Businesses up their game on climate disclosure but are still slow to act on decarbonisation

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Sophie Lihou

Senior Executive, Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Communications professional. Loves to travel. Beach and sun worshiper.

  • Latest EY Global Climate Risk Barometer shows companies are doing more to disclose climate risks; but many are failing to act on decarbonisation
  • Steep increase in number of companies providing disclosure on climate impacts but quality of reporting is not improving
  • Just one-third of organisations mention the impact of climate change on their business in financial statements

Businesses around the world are starting to improve their disclosure on climate risks but are not yet taking much needed action to address these risks and respond to the needs of investors and customers, according to the latest EY Global Climate Risk Barometer.

The report, now in its fourth year, looks at the extent to which organisations across the globe are reporting on, and taking action to mitigate their climate risks and opportunities. It examines the efforts of more than 1,500 businesses in 47 countries to publish information, based on the 11 recommendations set by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which was established to improve and increase reporting of climate-related financial data. The Barometer scores companies on the number of recommended disclosures that they make (coverage) and the extent or detail of each disclosure (quality).

According to the Barometer, more organisations are now providing some level of information (better coverage) on each of the recommendations than in previous years. Where a score of 100% would show information being disclosed on all recommendations, this year’s average score is 84% – a steep rise from 70% in 2021.

However, companies are still struggling to improve the quality of their disclosures. The average quality score sits at 44% – just slightly above the score of 42% in last year’s survey. A score of 100% would demonstrate that a company is disclosing all of the details needed.  

Despite burgeoning regulatory and political activity around climate change, and clear improvements in disclosure rules over the past 12 months – including the proposed standards from the newly created International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) – businesses are struggling to take practical steps towards decarbonisation. For example, only 29% of companies surveyed say that they report on the impact of climate change in their financial statements – a sign that they don’t have the data they need or that they have not calculated the impact; and more than half of the references to climate impact in these statements are qualitative rather than quantitative.

Peter Miller, an Assurance Partner at EY in Guernsey, says:

“This survey suggests that there are signs of progress, not least in businesses’ efforts to build climate impacts into strategies, put in place risk planning, and publish decarbonisation strategies. In Guernsey, Boards are required to consider the impact of climate change on their business strategy and risk profile and, where appropriate, make ‘timely climate change-related disclosures’ as detailed in the GFSC’s Guernsey's Finance Sector Code of Corporate Governance. More recently the Guernsey Financial Services Commission looked at safeguarding measures for investors against the potential risk of false or misleading sustainability claims and published its Guidance for Collective Investment Schemes on measures to counter the risk of greenwashing.”

“The increasing demand for financial products that support lower carbon economies is in part evidenced by The International Stock Exchange (TISE) now catering for transition bonds and transition issuers with the launch of a new transition offering within its sustainable finance segment. Guernsey continues to be agile with its innovation in this space, which positions it well to be considered as a jurisdiction of choice for sustainable finance investments.”

Elsewhere in the survey, almost half of organisations surveyed globally (49%) responded that they have conducted scenario analysis – which is also a TCFD recommendation – to examine the likely scale and timings of particular risks and prepare for the worst-case outcomes. Three-quarters (75%) responded that they have conducted risk analysis, and 62% have undertaken opportunity analysis, while 61% have disclosed decarbonisation strategies.

The survey also shows that companies are now giving more balanced consideration to different types of risks than in previous years. They are paying attention to both “transition risks” – stemming from changes in the economy brought about by climate change, for example slower growth in specific sectors – and “physical risks” that are a direct result of changes in climate, such as the consequences of increased rainfall. Last year, companies were more focused on physical risks (55%) than on transition risks (25%).

One area in which companies have shown a particular improvement is strategic planning around climate risk. The EY Global Climate Risk Barometer scores organisations’ strategies by examining, for example, the extent to which they factor climate risks and opportunities into their plans or how they build resilience through diversification. The coverage score for strategy has risen to 81%, from 65% in last year’s survey – indicating that more companies are at least disclosing some information in this area.

Francis Malaspina, an Assurance Partner at EY in Jersey, concludes:

“We’re witnessing transformational change in the regulatory landscape around sustainability and climate risk. It’s not surprising that companies around the world are improving their disclosure with new regulatory bodies and proposed standards, as well as examples of individual countries introducing their own rules.

“For Jersey to keep pace with the market and reach it’s 2030 vision of being recognised as the leading sustainable international finance center in the markets it serves, it’s key that they recognise these changes and act on them. It’s encouraging to see Jersey Finance continuing to build on their sustainable finance strategy, originally launched in 2020, with the Jersey Chapter of the Mondaq ESG Comparative Guide, which covers the regulatory regimes and codes of practice that govern ESG regulation and implementation in Jersey. The insights on developing market practice in relation to ESG standards, frameworks and governance with regards to the existing Jersey sustainable finance strategy will be crucial in supporting Jersey’s finance industry in leading the way for other jurisdictions.”

The quantity and quality of disclosure varies widely across the countries surveyed, but as in the previous three reports, countries with rigorous climate disclosure regulation; a proactive investor community; and strong signals from policy makers, tend to see the highest scores. The countries with the best quality of disclosure include South Korea and Ireland, as well as several in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, with the UK scoring highest of all on both quality and coverage.

The report also highlights several steps companies can take to accelerate decarbonisation for their own organisations and the wider economy. These include treating disclosure as a means to an end, not an end in itself; setting meaningful targets; and exploring the opportunities borne out of climate impacts, as well as the risks.