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SEC may mandate corporate climate disclosures

SEC climate risk disclosureJust as Wal-Mart’s plan to start eco-labeling its products is splashing down into the summer corporate news kiddie pool, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in talks about making companies do some serious environmental reporting of their own.

The SEC may eventually require all publicly traded companies to let consumers (that is, investors) know what kinds of risks—financial and otherwise—climate change may pose to the bottom line.

“It’s really time for us to take another very serious look at the disclosure system,” an SEC commissioner told Environment & Energy Publishing (via The New York Times). 

Investment groups had approached the SEC in June to discuss climate disclosure for companies. “What an investor is looking for is adequate information to make smart decisions,” president of eco-focused financial network Ceres, Mindy Lubber told the Associated Press at the time.

Some companies, however, maintain that the disclosures would be little more than a shot in the dark. “There are so many hypotheticals that you have to throw into the assumptions that I’m not sure how valid detailed cost reporting would be,” an American Electric Power spokesperson told the AP.

But the SEC has continued its discussion. “We have a lot of internal education to do,” Elisse Walter, one of the SEC commissioners told E&E. “This is obviously not an agency populated with climate experts.”

Earlier this year, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners drafted a similar recommendation, which, if adopted by states, requires large insurance groups to make climate risk information available to the public.  Many firms already keep tabs on such risks.

If the SEC settles on a similar mandate, the idea of which had been brushed off throughout the last administration, it could make some big waves, indeed.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto/ISerg

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