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BlackRock calls for uniform ESG disclosures, will other fashion brands follow?

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BlackRock CEO Larry Fink released his annual letter to CEOs this week, asking recipients to tailor their environmental, social and governance (ESG) reports to ensure they are consistent with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a framework that aims to help public companies and other organizations disclose climate-related risks and opportunities. As part of the company’s focus on sustainability, Fink says BlackRock asks companies to set short-, medium-, and long-term goals for GHG reductions, and ensure that corresponding reporting is done. TCFD compliant, as the company believes. they are essential tools for understanding a company’s ability to adapt to the future.

Finks calls for companies to use uniform ESG disclosures to benefit investors reflects growing consensus among leading companies (eg State Street) and regulators (eg Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission , Gensler) that the disclosure framework set out by the Financial Stability TCFD created by the board of directors is the appropriate model to adopt, says Mintz attorney Jacob Hupart. Given his position at the top of the world’s largest asset management firm, Fink and other powerful investors push for uniform disclosures should impact regulators’ reasoning and eventual implementation decision. , such as the SEC, which has not yet released its rules on climate-related disclosures.

Among those that have adopted the TCFD framework, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has issued a policy statement and final rules and guidance on climate-related financial reporting for listed companies, which require standard listed companies be required to include a statement in their annual financial report that specifies whether their statements comply with the TCFD, and if not, explains why, from 1 January 2022. The aim, according to the UK government: to ensure that companies take into account the risks and opportunities they face due to climate change.

Persistent calls for uniform reporting and impending regulatory crackdowns come as the amount of ESG disclosures included in documents filed with the SEC, for example, has increased dramatically in recent years. This trend will no doubt continue once the SEC introduces its climate change rules, according to Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Kevin Douglas. Additionally, he notes that there has been a significant expansion in the scope of ESG disclosures provided by many public companies (especially large-cap companies) outside of SEC filings, including via liability corporate social or similar reporting, and corporate website disclosures with such efforts seen in the fashion industry, as brands seek to meet growing consumer and investor interests.

In fact, a number of notable fashion brands and groups including Burberry, Kering, LVMH, H&M, Fast Retailing, owner of Uniqlo, Herms, Inditex, owner of Zara, Richemont and Tapestry have voluntarily adopted the reporting guidelines. TCFD in recent years, likely due, at least in part, to pressure from shareholders for an accepted framework as part of their duty to those parties. Within the fashion space, Gucci owner Kering was a pioneer, with ASICS Corp. both adopting the TCFD in June 2017, closely followed by Burberry and Marks & Spencer the same year. Luxury giants LVMH, Herms and Richemont joined in December 2020. And more recently, the parent company of Coach Tapestry, Inc. adopted TCPD standards in July 2021.

Although the list of fashion-focused TCFD supporters includes some of the biggest names in the industry, it is nevertheless a very short list representing around 1% of the nearly 2,000 companies that use the TCFD framework. This list is of course missing some of the biggest names in sportswear/activewear, as well as almost every major Western retailer, among others, raising questions as to why more brands have not chosen to adopt the voluntary framework, and whether more will follow in the future amid pressure from influential investors and ahead of further regulatory action on the ESG reporting front.

Ultimately, if companies already feel compelled by investor demands to publish TCFD information, Hupart says imposing similar regulatory requirements may not inspire as much resistance as that which would be provoked by d other types of climate information.

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