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EU and Australia approve/change legislation in favour of requiring companies to report on ESG

Aviva Investors welcomes brave new world on corporate transparency

Following up the Rio+20 push for a global framework for Corporate Sustainability Reporting the European Parliament voted on legislative proposals to encourage around 6,000 companies to report on their environmental and social performance. The proposals apply to all EU large public interest companies with over 500 employees. The legislation is now finalised and will see the proposals formally adopted by the Council of Ministers after which member states are expected to bring them into force by 2016.

 Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors warmly welcomed the conclusion of the legislative process and said:

"It is the start of a brave new world for corporate transparency. This legislation should hugely increase the amount of information available to investors and the general public on how sustainable a company’s operations are.

“Information on a company’s environmental and social performance is absolutely crucial for long term investors, as many of these factors are key to whether it succeeds in the long run. How companies address environmental emissions, human rights, employment relations and customer complaints are likely to be reported upon by many organisations for the first time. If they fail to do so, then the reasons for this failure will need to be given.

“This is superb news for investors, the wider capital markets and civil society. As long term investors we will use this additional data on approximately 6,000 European companies to understand what might impact sustainability of the companies we hold stakes in.

“I congratulate all of the policy-makers involved in producing an excellent, well-balanced piece of legislation.  We now need to see how the European legislation is embedded by member states in either national law or listing rules.

“Since this reporting will be on a comply or explain basis, it is important that the explanations given are substantive and are overseen by the market and society more broadly, not just regulators.  The Commission also needs to issue guidance for companies that brings together reporting codes, standards and conventions into a coherent document, to help companies navigate and ensure consistency and comparability.

“In 2011 Aviva Investors convened the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, an investor-led group representing over €50tn and collectively calling for change. We have long campaigned for many of the changes introduced by the legislation to come into place and are delighted the legislation is now final.”

The call for Global Sustainability Reporting was also promoted in the UN Secretary Generals Panel on Sustainability and also in the more recent High Level Panel Report on Post 2015 Development Agenda co-chaired by the UK Prime Minister and the Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia. It said: 

"As more industries develop sustainability certification, it will be easier for civil society and shareholders to become watchdogs, holding firms accountable for adhering to industry standards and worker safety issues, and being ready to disinvest if they do not. Today, however, only 25 per cent of large companies report to shareholders on sustainability practices; by 2030, this should be 
commonplace."

Australia has just amended its stock exchange listing rules to require companies to disclose their ESG impacts on a comply or explain basis.  


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