Suits The C-Suite

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report delivered facts about widespread, extreme climate change, together with the warning that the rise in temperatures can exceed 1.5°C to 2°C in the next few decades if stakeholders don’t act now. The reminder to place the utmost importance on urgent, large-scale reduction of greenhouse gas emissions came months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) addresses the issue on a global scale.

The IPCC report and the upcoming COP26 emphasize further the need for organizations to prioritize decarbonization. Increased investor and regulatory pressure have pushed organizations to heed prior wake-up calls and respond by broadening their climate disclosures, specifically by adopting the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. This is reflected in EY’s 2021 Global Climate Risk Disclosure Barometer, which reveals that coverage of the TCFD recommendations has reached an average of 70% for more than 1,100 companies across 42 jurisdictions. However, higher coverage scores continue to be linked to climate-mature markets, highlighting inconsistencies among jurisdictions and a significant gap for low-performing markets to bridge.

While TCFD reporting has made progress in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the region also logs the lowest score at 19%. In the Philippines, adoption of international reporting frameworks is underway but is still in the nascent stages, mainly driven by the move of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require publicly-listed companies (PLCs) to report on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts through Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 4 Series of 2019. Similarly, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) proposed guidelines to encourage banks to integrate sustainability principles and ESG risks into their strategies and operations.

Intensifying climate reporting, though, should go beyond compliance and shift to accurately mapping out risks and opportunities so companies can adopt appropriate risk management strategies, metrics, and targets that significantly contribute to the global efforts of mitigating the adverse impact of climate change. Key findings from the EY Barometer discussed below shed light on what areas to focus on.

QUALITY TRAILS BEHIND COVERAGE IN TCFD REPORTING
The EY Barometer evaluated companies based on the number of recommended disclosures made (“coverage”) and the extent or detail of each disclosure (“quality”). Despite the advances in the coverage of TCFD elements, the quality of disclosures of the assessed companies was deemed unimpressive. Overall performance peaked at 42%. Of the almost 50% achieving 100% coverage, only three companies received a score of 100% quality.

EY data point to better reporting on governance, targets and metrics, while risks and opportunities may have been relegated to a “tick box” item for now. These results indicate either of two things: that organizations feel more comfortable disclosing more of what they are trying to achieve and less of how they intend to get there, or that there may be a trend for companies looking to set aspirational targets in advance of creating a clear pathway to achieving their goals.

Still, it’s worth noting that high performers in disclosure quality with long-standing Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) reporting practices have leveraged the alignment of the CDP questionnaire with some TCFD elements.

SCENARIO MODELING CAPABILITY STILL IN ITS EARLY STAGES
Sectors with the most significant exposure to transition risk scored higher for their disclosures. These include financial services, with banks in the lead. One effective way to assess the risks and seize opportunities related to climate change is through scenario analysis, and it is great to see that many banks have taken the initiative to use it in stress testing their assets, products, and services.

Scenario analysis is a critical element of the TCFD framework as it helps institutions evaluate future climate-related events, develop better strategies, and build compelling models, even if at this point, many companies are still struggling to implement it. This challenge prevents them from fully understanding the size and time frame of physical and transition risks. Climate scenarios are also necessary for financial institutions to get a full picture of the impact of their portfolio’s carbon emissions, including value chain activities.

TURNING THEORY INTO TANGIBLE, ACTIONABLE STRATEGIES
Without enhancing scenario analysis, it can prove difficult to assess risks and opportunities accurately. In turn, this affects the attainment of goals, development of strategies, and creation of long-term business value.

The EY study shows that only 41% of companies have conducted scenario analysis — a number that shows there’s room for improvement. Among the scenarios referenced, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 was the most common, followed by RCP 2.6. Furthermore, an estimated 60% of these companies have referenced physical or transition risk or both, with 55% mentioning physical risks.

As the adverse effects of climate change become more evident, many organizations recognize the importance of preparing for physical risks without waiting for an economy-wide transition. However, not all organizations have the internal capability to create an illustrative path toward net-zero. So what can be done?

According to the EY report, companies can start by reporting on risks and opportunities around climate change, and clearly identifying climate-related risks when embedding these in the enterprise risk management system. They need to then assess business transformation levers to respond to climate risks and opportunities. Finally, they must publicly commit to decarbonization and implement strategies to reduce carbon emissions within their business operations and supply chain.

ACCELERATING DECARBONIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES
The EY report shows that while there is some advancement towards TCFD reporting, more comprehensive and concrete action is required to sufficiently address the climate crisis, especially in the case of the ASEAN region and the Philippines in particular, who are playing catch-up to global initiatives.

Globally, central banks, exchanges, and other regulators have provided guidance to support more sophisticated sustainability reporting. In the Philippines, stricter requirements can be introduced sooner as the country submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in accordance with the partnership arranged under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. As such, putting off alignment with decarbonization targets can be counterproductive, leaving businesses with disclosures that display their climate change inaction in full public view.

The proper time to act is now. Recognizing climate risks and opportunities as material to business growth should be a top priority for organizations. This decision will facilitate the development of holistic decarbonization strategies to address the call for business transformation amidst the looming climate crisis and pave the path to a net-zero world.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

 

Benjamin N. Villacorte is a partner from the Climate Change and Sustainability Services team of SGV & Co.