Sustainability

On January 17, 2024, the European Parliament formally endorsed its provisional agreement with the Council on the Directive Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition through Better Protection against Unfair Practices and Better Information (“Greenwashing Directive”).  The Council is now expected to endorse the provisional agreement after which the Directive will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force.

The Greenwashing Directive aims to contribute to the EU’s green transition by empowering consumers to make informed purchases using reliable sustainability information about products and traders.  To do so, the Directive amends Directive 2005/29 on Unfair Business-to-Consumer Practices (“Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”) by introducing specific rules on sustainability and environmental claims.  The Greenwashing Directive is intended to work in tandem with the proposed Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (the “Proposed Green Claims Directive”), which we reported on here

Companies should keep a close eye on the transposition of this Directive, as it will have a significant impact on how they communicate about their sustainability, environmental, and social or ethical efforts.  Covington can help companies with navigating these regulatory requirements while meeting their business objectives.Continue Reading EU Adopts New Rules on Greenwashing and Social Impact Claims

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) recently released a preliminary report analyzing data related to the recyclability of certain materials in California.  The report, issued in accordance with CalRecycle’s obligations under California Senate Bill 343 (SB 343), is intended to help the public determine whether businesses may legally claim their products and packaging

The European Commission is currently holding a public consultation on a Draft Delegated Act (“DDA”) on a common rating scheme on the energy performance of data centers in the European Union and European Economic Area (“EU/EEA”).  The DDA will lay out the energy key performance indicators that operators and owners of data centers must report, the sustainability indicators that will be calculated per data center, and the aggregated data that will be made publicly available, in accordance with the new EU Energy Efficiency Directive (“EED”). 

The adoption of the DDA will introduce specific mandatory environmental and energy performance reporting requirements for data centers for the first time in the EU/EEA, and probably in the world.  These reporting requirements may be the first step for the EU to adopt mandatory environmental performance targets for data centers within the next decade.Continue Reading Upcoming Sustainability Reporting Requirements for Data Centers in the EU

Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that modifies the regulations applicable to the Energy Credit under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code).  The NPRM also withdraws and repurposes portions of an August proposal on the rules governing the increased credit amount available for taxpayers satisfying prevailing wage and registered apprenticeship requirements established by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  This post summarizes a few key aspects of the NPRM below:Continue Reading Department of the Treasury and IRS propose new guidance for the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit

On September 13, 2023, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1305 (AB 1305), which imposes wide-ranging disclosure requirements on (1) entities that market or sell voluntary carbon offsets and (2) entities that purchase and rely on these offsets to advertise their climate goals.  The bill has been enrolled and is currently on Governor Newsom’s desk.

AB 1305 comes on the heels of escalating criticism of voluntary carbon offsets, including arguments that corporations use low-quality offsets to engage in greenwashing.  AB 1305 is likely to prompt companies to engage in careful due diligence before making climate-related claims and to ensure that they rely on high-quality offsets that correspond to real emission reductions or removals.Continue Reading Law Enacted by California Legislature Would Require Companies to Disclose Key Details About Voluntary Carbon Offsets and Claims Made in Reliance Upon Them

Last week, the California Legislature passed two bills comprising the core of a landmark “Climate Accountability Package.”  Together, the two bills will impose extensive new climate-related disclosure obligations on thousands of U.S. public and private companies with operations in California.  Senate Bill 253 (SB 253) would require companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenues to file annual reports publicly disclosing their Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) would require companies with greater than $500 million in annual revenues to prepare biennial reports disclosing climate-related financial risk and describing measures adopted to mitigate and adapt to that risk.

Yesterday afternoon during an appearance at Climate Week NYC, Governor Newsom told the audience emphatically, “of course I will sign those bills.”  When he does, many more companies will be required to improve the accuracy, completeness and rigor of their GHG reporting and climate risk disclosures. Because of the complexity of GHG reporting, we have focused the remainder of this post on SB 253.  Please see our separate post on SB 261 here.Continue Reading California Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Disclosure Laws: Spotlight on SB 253

Last week, the California Legislature passed two bills as part of the state’s landmark “Climate Accountability Package.”  If signed by Governor Newsom as anticipated, the two laws—Senate Bill 253 (SB 253) and Senate Bill 261 (SB 261)—will usher in significant climate-related disclosure requirements for thousands of U.S. public and private companies that do business in California.

SB 253 and SB 261 mark the most extensive emissions- and climate-disclosure laws enacted in the United States to date.  SB 253 requires companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenues to file annual reports publicly disclosing their direct, indirect, and supply chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, verified by an independent and experienced third-party provider.  SB 261 requires companies with $500 million in annual revenues to prepare biennial reports disclosing climate-related financial risk and measures they have adopted to reduce and adapt to that risk, with the first report due by January 1, 2026.

This post focuses on SB 261’s climate-related financial risk disclosure requirements. You can find our post on SB 253’s GHG emissions reporting requirements here.Continue Reading California Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Disclosure Laws: Spotlight on SB 261

The following interview originally appeared in the National Law Journal.

What you need to know

  • One of the significant issues many of their multinational clients have is the growing divide between how they operate and what’s expected of them in the U.S. versus Europe.
  • At the same time the legal field has experienced this anti-ESG backlash over the last year in the U.S., the EU has moved full speed ahead on many ESG initiatives with significant consequences for businesses, including the EU Taxonomy, the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.
  • There is also growing litigation risk because with so much more scrutiny, and so much more information in the public domain, there are a range of stakeholders and potential plaintiffs on ESG issues, from state officials to NGOs

The Biden administration has set clear policy goals to establish effective corporate net-zero strategies on the one hand, yet there has also been growing pushback against the climate aspect of ESG in many red states. How do you advise clients on climate regulation in this very fluid environment?

Jayni Hein: We are all witnessing this summer, yet again, record-breaking land and ocean temperatures and pervasive wildfire smoke. It’s undeniable that climate change is affecting how we live today and how businesses operate. How both the government and the private sector respond is critically important.Continue Reading Q&A: Navigating Climate and ESG Amid Regulatory Uncertainty

On 26 June 2023, the International Sustainability Standards Board (“ISSB”) published its inaugural International Financial Reporting Standards Sustainability Disclosure Standards (the “ISSB Standards”) (read our previous blog post on this here).  In August 2023, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) published Primary Market Bulletin 45, confirming its intentions to update its climate-related disclosures for listed companies under the Listing Rules (see LR 9.8.6 R (8) and LR 14.3.27 R) to reference UK-endorsed ISSB Standards.Continue Reading Corporate Reporting in the UK: The International Sustainability Standards Board

On 26 June 2023, the International Sustainability Standards Board (the “ISSB”) issued its inaugural International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) Sustainability Disclosure Standards (the “Standards”), heralding progress in the development of a global baseline of sustainability-linked disclosures. The Standards build on the concepts that underpin the IFRS Accounting Standards, which are required in more than 140 jurisdictions, but notably not in the United States for domestic issuers subject to regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), which must apply US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“US GAAP”).  Despite broad investor appetite for  transparent, uniform and comparable disclosure rules, the scope of required sustainability disclosure and timing for adoption of the SEC’s pending climate disclosure rule remains unresolved.Continue Reading ISSB Issues Inaugural Global Sustainability Disclosure Standards