59 Organizations Call on SEC to Adopt Mandatory Climate and ESG Disclosures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 59 organizations and three leading securities academics submitted a comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), urging the agency to “move quickly to propose, adopt, implement, and enforce detailed disclosure requirements” on climate and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. This letter comes in response to the SEC’s call for public input on climate risks for the corporations and banks that raise money in the stock market. The agency’s regulatory agenda and recent comments by SEC Chair Gary Gensler suggest that the SEC will propose a climate disclosure rule later this year.

Signers included financial watchdogs, national and local climate and environmental organizations, labor unions, investor advocates, impact investment firms, environmental justice and indigenous rights advocates, and academics. This range of signers shows the environmental movement’s growing focus on the fact that climate change can’t be tackled without addressing climate financial risk, a job for the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and the other agencies that oversee the finance sector. Tens of thousands of members of the public also submitted comments to the SEC asking it to require companies to come clean about their contributions to the climate crisis and what they’re doing to stop it.

In the letter, the climate and financial reform organizations said: “To meet investor and issuer needs, the SEC must move swiftly to finalize mandatory disclosure rules for climate risk; stewardship of a just and equitable transition to a low carbon economy; human capital management; racial, economic, environmental, and climate justice; taxes; and political spending to avoid untenable growth of climate and ESG risk within our markets that harms investors, spurs the improper allocation of capital, and may increase the cost of capital for U.S. companies.”

Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund have also submitted a joint comment providing additional detail on the issues discussed in this letter. Public Citizen separately submitted a comment providing additional discussion of climate, political activity, and tax disclosure.  

“Investors know that climate change is a threat that some companies aren’t taking seriously enough. They need information that lets them better understand climate risks and opportunities to see who they can trust to thrive in a low-carbon future economy. 

While many firms report some ESG data today, the current climate disclosure guidance essentially allows firms to self-determine and provide only vague, boilerplate disclosures. Unless the SEC adopts a strong rule, growing climate risks will harm investors, spur the improper allocation of capital, and may increase the cost of capital for U.S. companies.” 

– Alex Martin, Senior Policy Analyst, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund

Climate change isn’t just an environmental crisis, but one of social justice, wealth distribution, equity and human rights. The SEC should make sure market participants have the information they want about issues of environmental and climate justice, as well as other ESG issues like political activity; tax; lobbying; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and human capital management practices.” 

Yevgeny Shrago, Policy Counsel, Public Citizen