The SEC’s Proposed Climate-Related Disclosures: Post Ten – Financial Statement Disclosures

In the first post in this series, we overviewed the three main areas addressed in the SEC’s Proposed Rule for climate-related disclosures:

  • Governance, strategy, risk and related disclosures outside the financial statements
  • Greenhouse gas emission disclosures and attestation requirements
  • Financial statement disclosures

As you may have heard and can read about in this Press Release, the comment period for this proposal ended June 17, 2022.

Subsequent posts in this series have addressed proposed disclosures for:

This post explores the proposed financial statement disclosures.  All companies would be required to make these disclosures.  In addition, they would be subject to the requirements of internal control over financial reporting.  The financial statement disclosure requirements fall into the following categories:

  • Climate-related disclosure instructions
  • Contextual information
  • Disclosure thresholds
  • Financial impacts of severe weather events and other natural conditions
  • Financial impacts related to transition activities
  • Expenditure to mitigate risks of severe weather events and other natural conditions
  • Expenditure related to transition activities
  • Financial estimates and assumptions impacted by severe weather events and other natural conditions
  • Financial estimates and assumptions impacted by transition activities
  • Impact of identified climate-related risks
  • Impact of identified climate-related opportunities

Climate-Related Disclosure Instructions

The general instructions for the proposed financial statement disclosures specify that they must be included in any filing that is required to include the disclosures proposed by Regulation S-K Subpart 1500 and also includes audited financial statements.  These would essentially be annual reports on Forms 10-K and 20-F and registration statements.  These disclosures would be included in a note to the financial statements and would be required for each period for which the company includes financial statements in its filing.

Contextual Information

 Disclosure would include:

  • How each metric was derived;
  • Descriptions of significant inputs and assumptions; and
  • Any related policy decisions.

Disclosure Thresholds

The proposed rule would require disclosure if the amounts described below are over 1% of the relevant financial statement line item or expenditure or capitalized cost category.   This test would be based on the sum of the absolute value of all related impacts.  This threshold would apply to all the following financial statement disclosures.

Financial Impacts of Severe Weather Events and Other Natural Conditions

Companies would be required to disclose the impact of severe “weather events and other natural conditions, such as flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise.”  This disclosure would be for each affected line item in the financial statements.  In addition, separate disclosure would be required for negative and positive impacts.

The proposed rule provides these example disclosures:

“(1) Changes to revenues or costs from disruptions to business operations or supply chains;

(2) Impairment charges and changes to the carrying amount of assets (such as inventory, intangibles, and property, plant and equipment) due to the assets being exposed to severe weather, flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise;

(3) Changes to loss contingencies or reserves (such as environmental reserves or loan loss allowances) due to impact from severe weather events; and

(4) Changes to total expected insured losses due to flooding or wildfire patterns.”

Financial Impacts Related to Transition Activities

Companies would disclose the impact of any efforts to reduce GHG emissions or otherwise mitigate exposure to transition risks.  Separate disclosure would be required for negative and positive impacts.

Expenditure to Mitigate Risks of Severe Weather Events and Other Natural Conditions and Expenditure Related to Transition Activities

Companies would separately disclose the aggregate amount of expenditure and the aggregate amount of capitalized costs incurred during the fiscal years presented to mitigate the risks from severe weather events and to reduce GHG emissions or otherwise mitigate exposure to transition risks.

Financial Estimates and Assumptions Impacted by Severe Weather Events and Other Natural Conditions and Financial Estimates and Assumptions Impacted by Transition Activities

Disclosure would be required concerning whether the estimates and assumptions used to produce the consolidated financial statements were impacted by exposures to risks and uncertainties associated with, or known impacts from, severe weather events and other natural conditions or by risks and uncertainties associated with, or known impacts from, a potential transition to a lower carbon economy or any climate-related targets disclosed by the company.

Impact of Identified Climate-Related Risks and Impact of Identified Climate-Related Opportunities

Companies would be required to disclose the impact of any climate-related risks, as defined in proposed regulation S-K Item 1502(a).  This information would be presented separately for physical risks and transition risks.  Companies could voluntarily disclose similar information for climate-related opportunities.

Summary

The complexity and related costs of measuring the amounts described above along with the challenges of the proposed measurement threshold have been the subject of comments in the SEC’s rulemaking process.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

For reference, here is proposed Regulation S-X Article 14:

Article 14 – Climate-related disclosure

  • 210.14-01 Climate-related disclosure instructions.

(a) General. A registrant must include disclosure pursuant to § 210.14-02 in any filing that is required to include disclosure pursuant to subpart 229.1500 of this chapter and that also requires the registrant to include its audited financial statements. The disclosure pursuant to § 210.14-02 must be included in a note to the financial statements included in such filing.

(b) Definitions. The definitions in § 229.1500 (Item 1500 of Regulation S-K) apply to this Article 14 of Regulation S-X.

(c) Basis of calculation. When calculating the metrics in this Article 14, except where otherwise indicated, a registrant must:

(1) Use financial information that is consistent with the scope of the rest of its consolidated financial statements included in the filing; and

(2) Whenever applicable, apply the same accounting principles that it is required to apply in preparation of the rest of its consolidated financial statements included in the filing.

(d) Historical periods. Disclosure must be provided for the registrant’s most recently completed fiscal year, and for the historical fiscal year(s) included in the consolidated financial statements in the filing (e.g., a registrant that is required to include balance sheets as of the end of its two most recent fiscal years and income statements and cash flow statements as of the end of its three most recent fiscal years would be required to disclose two years of the climate-related metrics that correspond to balance sheet line items and three years of the climate-related metrics that correspond to income statement or cash flow statement line items).

  • 210.14-02 Climate-related metrics.

(a) Contextual information. Provide contextual information, describing how each specified metric was derived, including a description of significant inputs and assumptions used, and, if applicable, policy decisions made by the registrant to calculate the specified metrics.

(b) Disclosure thresholds.

(1) Disclosure of the financial impact on a line item in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements pursuant to paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section (including any impacts included pursuant to paragraphs (i) and (j) of this section) is not required if the sum of the absolute values of all the impacts on the line item is less than one percent of the total line item for the relevant fiscal year.

(2) Disclosure of the aggregate amount of expenditure expensed or the aggregate amount of capitalized costs incurred pursuant to paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section (including any impacts included pursuant to paragraphs (i) and (j) of this section) is not required if such amount is less than one percent of the total expenditure expensed or total capitalized costs incurred, respectively, for the relevant fiscal year.

(c) Financial impacts of severe weather events and other natural conditions. Disclose the impact of severe weather events and other natural conditions, such as flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise on any relevant line items in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements during the fiscal years presented. Disclosure must be presented, at a minimum, on an aggregated line-by-line basis for all negative impacts and, separately, at a minimum, on an aggregated line-by-line basis for all positive impacts. Impacts may include, for example:

(1) Changes to revenues or costs from disruptions to business operations or supply chains;

(2) Impairment charges and changes to the carrying amount of assets (such as inventory, intangibles, and property, plant and equipment) due to the assets being exposed to severe weather, flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise;

(3) Changes to loss contingencies or reserves (such as environmental reserves or loan loss allowances) due to impact from severe weather events; and

(4) Changes to total expected insured losses due to flooding or wildfire patterns.

(d) Financial impacts related to transition activities. Disclose the impact of any efforts to reduce GHG emissions or otherwise mitigate exposure to transition risks on any relevant line items in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements during the fiscal years presented. Disclosure must be presented, at a minimum, on an aggregated line-by-line basis for all negative impacts and, separately, at a minimum, on an aggregated line-by-line basis for all positive impacts. Impacts may include, for example:

(1) Changes to revenue or cost due to new emissions pricing or regulations resulting in the loss of a sales contract;

(2) Changes to operating, investing, or financing cash flow from changes in upstream costs, such as transportation of raw materials;

(3) Changes to the carrying amount of assets (such as intangibles and property, plant, and equipment) due to, among other things, a reduction of the asset’s useful life or a change in the asset’s salvage value by being exposed to transition activities; and

(4) Changes to interest expense driven by financing instruments such as climate-linked bonds issued where the interest rate increases if certain climate-related targets are not met.

(e) Expenditure to mitigate risks of severe weather events and other natural conditions. Disclose separately the aggregate amount of expenditure expensed and the aggregate amount of capitalized costs incurred during the fiscal years presented to mitigate the risks from severe weather events and other natural conditions, such as flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise. For example, a registrant may be required to disclose the amount of expense or capitalized costs, as applicable, to increase the resilience of assets or operations, retire or shorten the estimated useful lives of impacted assets, relocate assets or operations at risk, or otherwise reduce the future impact of severe weather events and other natural conditions on business operations.

(f) Expenditure related to transition activities. Disclose separately the aggregate amount of expenditure expensed and the aggregate amount of capitalized costs incurred during the fiscal years presented to reduce GHG emissions or otherwise mitigate exposure to transition risks. For example, a registrant may be required to disclose the amount of expense or capitalized costs, as applicable, related to research and development of new technologies, purchase of assets, infrastructure, or products that are intended to reduce GHG emissions, increase energy efficiency, offset emissions (purchase of energy credits), or improve other resource efficiency. A registrant that has disclosed GHG emissions reduction targets or other climate-related commitments must disclose the expenditures and costs related to meeting its targets, commitments, and goals, if any, in the fiscal years presented.

(g) Financial estimates and assumptions impacted by severe weather events and other natural conditions. Disclose whether the estimates and assumptions the registrant used to produce the consolidated financial statements were impacted by exposures to risks and uncertainties associated with, or known impacts from, severe weather events and other natural conditions, such as flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, and sea level rise. If yes, provide a qualitative description of how the development of such estimates and assumptions were impacted by such events.

(h) Financial estimates and assumptions impacted by transition activities. Disclose whether the estimates and assumptions the registrant used to produce the consolidated financial statements were impacted by risks and uncertainties associated with, or known impacts from, a potential transition to a lower carbon economy or any climate-related targets disclosed by the registrant. If yes, provide a qualitative description of how the development of such estimates and assumptions were impacted by such a potential transition or the registrant’s disclosed climate- related targets.

(i) Impact of identified climate-related risks. A registrant must also include the impact of any climate-related risks (separately by physical risks and transition risks, as defined in
§ 229.1500(c) of this chapter), identified by the registrant pursuant to § 229.1502(a) of this chapter, on any of the financial statement metrics disclosed pursuant to paragraphs (c) through (h) of this section.

(j) Impact of climate-related opportunities. A registrant may also include the impact of any opportunities arising from severe weather events and other natural conditions, any impact of efforts to pursue climate-related opportunities associated with transition activities, and the impact of any other climate-related opportunities, including those identified by the registrant pursuant to § 229.1502(a) of this chapter, on any of the financial statement metrics disclosed pursuant to paragraphs (c) through (h) of this section. If a registrant makes a policy decision to disclose the impact of an opportunity, it must do so consistently for the fiscal years presented, including for each financial statement line item and all relevant opportunities identified by the registrant.

The SEC’s Proposed Climate-Related Disclosures: Post Nine – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attestation Requirements

In the first post in this series, we overviewed the three main areas addressed in the SEC’s Proposed Rule for climate-related disclosures:

  • Governance, strategy, risk and related disclosures outside the financial statements
  • Greenhouse gas emission disclosures and attestation requirements
  • Financial statement disclosures

As you may have heard and can read about in this Press Release, the comment period for this proposal ended June 17, 2022.

Subsequent posts in this series have addressed proposed disclosures for:

This post explores the proposed attestation requirements for greenhouse gas emission disclosures.  As a reminder, greenhouse gas disclosures would be required for all companies in their annual reports on Forms 10-K and 20-F, with updates on Forms 10-Q and 6-K.  Smaller reporting companies would not be subject to the Scope 3 disclosure requirements.  The related attestation requirements would apply to accelerated and large accelerated filers.  The attestation requirements fall into the following categories:

  • Attestation
  • Attestation provider
  • Attestation report requirements
  • Additional disclosures
  • Voluntary attestation reporting

Attestation

For companies that are accelerated or large accelerated filers and are required to disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions the proposed rule would require an attestation report for those disclosures.  The specific requirements concerning the provider of the attestation report and the form of the report are described below.

The attestation requirement would not apply to the first year that Scope 1 and Scope 2 disclosures are required.  For the second and third years where Scope 1 and Scope 2 disclosures are provided, an attestation report providing “limited assurance” would be required.  For the fourth and following years a “reasonable assurance” report would be required.

The attestation report would be prepared using standards that are:

  • Publicly available at no cost;
  • Established by a body or group that has followed due process procedures; and
  • Broadly distributed for public comment.

A limited assurance report for years two and three would include words to the effect that “nothing came to their attention” of the attestation report provider that the information presented was not prepared in accordance with a chosen set of standards.  The process and procedures underlying this limited assurance report would be based on those standards.

If you would like to see an example of limited assurance on ESG information check out page 77 of Coke’s ESG report.  The last paragraph has the limited assurance report, which includes this language:

“Based on our review, we are not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the Schedule of Selected Sustainability Indicators for the year ended December 31, 2020, in order for it to be in accordance with the Criteria.”

In subsequent years when a reasonable assurance report would be required the provider would do more work and their report would say words to the effect that “in their opinion” the information presented has been prepared in accordance with the chosen set of standards.  This would be more like the report companies receive on their financial statements:

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of The Coca-Cola Company and subsidiaries (the Company) as of December 31, 2021 and 2020, the related consolidated statements of income, comprehensive income, shareowners’ equity and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2021, and the related notes (collectively referred to as the “consolidated financial statements”). In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 2021 and 2020, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2021, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

If a company provides voluntary assurance before the required transition date, it must comply with the requirements described below.

Attestation provider

The attestation report must be provided by a “GHG emissions attestation provider.”  The proposed rule provides a list of required characteristics that make a person or firm a “GHG emissions attestation provider.”  The list includes criteria to determine if a provider is an “expert” in GHG emissions by virtue of possessing significant experience and sufficient competence and capabilities and to determine if the person or firm is independent.  You can read more in the details of proposed S-K Item 1505 below.

Attestation report requirements

The attestation report would be included in the proposed “Climate-Related Disclosure” section in the filing.  The form and content of the report would follow the reporting standards in the standards used by the attestation provider.  The proposed rule includes a lengthy list of minimum requirements for the report including identification of the standards used, the level of assurance provided and a statement about independence.

Additional disclosures

In addition to the attestation report, disclosures would include:

  • Whether the attestation provider has a relevant license from any relevant licensing or accreditation body;
  • If applicable, identification of the licensing or accreditation body;
  • Whether the attestation provider is a member in good standing of the licensing or accreditation body;
  • Whether the attestation engagement is subject to any oversight inspection program(s);
  • If applicable which oversight inspection program(s);
  • Whether the attestation provider is subject to record-keeping requirements; and
  • If applicable, identify the record-keeping requirements and the duration of those requirements.

Voluntary attestation reporting

If a company that is not required to provide an attestation report does in fact provide such a report it must make several disclosures, including the identity of the provider, the standards used, the level of attestation, any relationship with the attestation provider and whether the provider is subject to an oversight program.

Summary

The complexity of the attestation process and the related costs have been the subject of comments in the SEC’s rulemaking process.  Our next post will explore the proposed S-X financial statement disclosure requirements.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

For reference here is proposed S-K Item 1505.

1505 Attestation of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions disclosure.

(a) Attestation.

(1) A registrant that is required to provide Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions disclosure pursuant to § 229.1504 and that is an accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer must include an attestation report covering such disclosure in the relevant filing. For filings made by an accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer for the second and third fiscal years after the compliance date for § 229.1504, the attestation engagement must, at a minimum, be at a limited assurance level and cover the registrant’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions disclosure. For filings made by an accelerated filer or large accelerated filer for the fourth fiscal year after the compliance date for § 229.1504 and thereafter, the attestation engagement must be at a reasonable assurance level and, at a minimum, cover the registrant’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions disclosures.

(2) Any attestation report required under this section must be provided pursuant to standards that are publicly available at no cost and are established by a body or group that has followed due process procedures, including the broad distribution of the framework for public comment. An accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer obtaining voluntary assurance prior to the first required fiscal year must comply with subparagraph (e) of this section. Voluntary assurance obtained by an accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer thereafter must follow the requirements of paragraphs (b) through (d) of this section and must use the same attestation standard as the required assurance over Scope 1 and Scope 2.

(b) GHG emissions attestation provider. The GHG emissions attestation report required by paragraph (a) of this section must be prepared and signed by a GHG emissions attestation provider. A GHG emissions attestation provider means a person or a firm that has all of the following characteristics:

(1) Is an expert in GHG emissions by virtue of having significant experience in measuring, analyzing, reporting, or attesting to GHG emissions. Significant experience means having sufficient competence and capabilities necessary to:

(i) Perform engagements in accordance with professional standards and applicable legal and regulatory requirements; and

(ii) Enable the service provider to issue reports that are appropriate under the circumstances.

(2) Is independent with respect to the registrant, and any of its affiliates, for whom it is providing the attestation report, during the attestation and professional engagement period.

(i) A GHG emissions attestation provider is not independent if such attestation provider is not, or a reasonable investor with knowledge of all relevant facts and circumstances would conclude that such attestation provider is not, capable of exercising objective and impartial judgment on all issues encompassed within the attestation provider’s engagement.

(ii) In determining whether a GHG emissions attestation provider is independent, the Commission will consider:

(A) Whether a relationship or the provision of a service creates a mutual or conflicting interest between the attestation provider and the registrant (or any of its affiliates), places the attestation provider in the position of attesting such attestation provider’s own work, results in the attestation provider acting as management or an employee of the registrant (or any of its affiliates), or places the attestation provider in a position of being an advocate for the registrant (or any of its affiliates); and

(B) All relevant circumstances, including all financial or other relationships between the attestation provider and the registrant (or any of its affiliates), and not just those relating to reports filed with the Commission.

(iii) The term “affiliates” as used in this section has the meaning provided in 17 CFR 210.2-01, except that references to “audit” are deemed to be references to the attestation services provided pursuant to this section.

(iv) The term “attestation and professional engagement period” as used in this section means both:

(A) The period covered by the attestation report; and

(B) The period of the engagement to attest to the registrant’s GHG emissions or to prepare a report filed with the Commission (“the professional engagement period”). The professional engagement period begins when the GHG attestation service provider either signs an initial engagement letter (or other agreement to attest a registrant’s GHG emissions) or begins attest procedures, whichever is earlier.

(c) Attestation report requirements. The GHG emissions attestation report required by paragraph (a) of this section must be included in the separately captioned “Climate-Related Disclosure” section in the filing. The form and content of the attestation report must follow the requirements set forth by the attestation standard (or standards) used by the GHG emissions attestation provider. Notwithstanding the foregoing, at a minimum the report must include the following:

(1) An identification or description of the subject matter or assertion being reported on, including the point in time or period of time to which the measurement or evaluation of the subject matter or assertion relates;

(2) An identification of the criteria against which the subject matter was measured or evaluated;

(3) A statement that identifies the level of assurance provided and describes the nature of the engagement;

(4) A statement that identifies the attestation standard (or standards) used;

(5) A statement that describes the registrant’s responsibility to report on the subject matter or assertion being reported on;

(6) A statement that describes the attestation provider’s responsibilities in connection with the preparation of the attestation report;

(7) A statement that the attestation provider is independent, as required by paragraph (a) of this section;

(8) For a limited assurance engagement, a description of the work performed as a basis for the attestation provider’s conclusion;

(9) A statement that describes significant inherent limitations, if any, associated with the measurement or evaluation of the subject matter against the criteria;

(10) The GHG emissions attestation provider’s conclusion or opinion, based on the applicable attestation standard(s) used;

(11) The signature of the attestation provider (whether by an individual or a person signing on behalf of the attestation provider’s firm);

(12) The city and state where the attestation report has been issued; and

(13) The date of the report.

(d) Additional disclosures by the registrant. In addition to including the GHG emissions attestation report required by paragraph (a) of this section, a large accelerated filer and an accelerated filer must disclose the following information within the separately captioned “Climate-Related Disclosure” section in the filing, after requesting relevant information from any GHG emissions attestation provider as necessary:

(1) Whether the attestation provider has a license from any licensing or accreditation body to provide assurance, and if so, identify the licensing or accreditation body, and whether the attestation provider is a member in good standing of that licensing or accreditation body;

(2) Whether the GHG emissions attestation engagement is subject to any oversight inspection program, and if so, which program (or programs); and

(3) Whether the attestation provider is subject to record-keeping requirements with respect to the work performed for the GHG emissions attestation engagement and, if so, identify the record-keeping requirements and the duration of those requirements.

(e) Disclosure of voluntary attestation. A registrant that is not required to include a GHG emissions attestation report pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section must disclose within the separately captioned “Climate-Related Disclosure” section in the filing the following information if the registrant’s GHG emissions disclosures were subject to third-party attestation or verification:

(1) Identify the provider of such attestation or verification;

(2) Describe the attestation or verification standard used;

(3) Describe the level and scope of attestation or verification provided;

(4) Briefly describe the results of the attestation or verification;

(5) Disclose whether the third-party service provider has any other business relationships with or has provided any other professional services to the registrant that may lead to an impairment of the service provider’s independence with respect to the registrant; and

(6) Disclose any oversight inspection program to which the service provider is subject (e.g., the AICPA’s peer review program).

The SEC’s Proposed Climate-Related Disclosures: Post Eight – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity and Methodology Disclosures

In the first post in this series, we overviewed the three main areas addressed in the SEC’s Proposed Rule for climate-related disclosures:

  • Governance, strategy, risk and related disclosures outside the financial statements
  • Greenhouse gas emission disclosures and attestation requirements
  • Financial statement disclosures

As you may have heard and can read about in this Press Release, the comment period for this proposal ended June 17, 2022.

Subsequent posts in this series have addressed proposed disclosures for:

This post explores the proposed disclosures surrounding greenhouse gas emission intensity and measurement methodology.  As a reminder, these disclosures would be required for all companies in their annual reports on Forms 10-K and 20-F, with updates on Forms 10-Q and 6-K.  Smaller reporting companies would not be subject to the Scope 3 disclosure requirements.  The disclosures about greenhouse gas emissions fall into the following categories:

  • Greenhouse gas intensity disclosures
  • Methodology
  • Liability for scope 3 emissions disclosures

A Starting Note

Much of approach in the proposed rule is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol).  The GHG Protocol is designed to provide “comprehensive global standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions.”  You can learn about the protocol and get information about available tools to build a reliable GHG inventory at the GHG Protocol website.

Greenhouse Gas Intensity Disclosures

Companies would be required to disclose a “GHG Intensity” measure such as metric tons of CO2e per unit of revenue and metric tons of CO2e per unit of production.  This information would be disclosed for Scopes 1 and 2 emissions, and if Scope 3 emissions are disclosed, separately for Scope 3 emissions.

The measures would be disclosed for each fiscal year included in the consolidated financial statements. Disclosure would also include the basis for the production metric used.

If a company does not have revenue or a unit of production measure, it must develop an alternative measure and explain why it is presenting that measure.  Companies may present additional measures, so long as they explain why a measure provides useful information to investors.

Methodology

Companies must disclose the:

  • Methodology for estimating emissions;
  • Significant inputs; and
  • Significant assumptions.

The description of the registrant’s methodology would include information about:

  • Organizational boundaries;
  • Operational boundaries;
  • Calculation approach;
  • Calculation tools;
  • The determination direct emissions – (Scope 1); and
  • The determination of indirect emissions – (Scope 2).

A significant amount of detail would be required in these disclosures about how companies determine boundaries and about consistency in measuring all scopes of emissions.

Companies would be permitted to use reasonable estimates and would disclose reasons for using such estimates and any underlying assumptions.

Companies would be allowed to use estimated data for the fourth quarter of a fiscal year if actual information is not available.  In this case prompt disclosure of the difference between actual and estimated amounts would be required.

Companies could use a range for estimated Scope 3 disclosures.  The reason for disclosing a range and any related assumptions would be disclosed.

Additional disclosures would include, to the extent material:

  • Use of third-party data and including the source and process to obtain such data;
  • Any changes in methodology;
  • Any gaps in data; and
  • Any overlaps in the categories for Scope 3 emissions.

Liability for Scope 3 Emissions Disclosures

The proposed rule includes a type of “safe-harbor” for disclosures of scope three emissions.  It states that for “any statement regarding Scope 3 emissions that is disclosed pursuant to §§ 229.1500 through 229.1506 and made in a document filed with the Commission”, such statement

“…is deemed not to be a fraudulent statement (as defined in paragraph (f)(3) of this section), unless it is shown that such statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis or was disclosed other than in good faith.”

Summary

The complexity and related costs, along with the measurement challenges in estimating GHG emissions are likely to be the subject of comments in the SEC’s rulemaking process.  Our next post will explore the proposed S-K Item 1505 about attestation requirements for greenhouse gas emission disclosures.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

For reference, here is proposed S-K Item 1504:

 

(Item 1504) GHG emissions metrics.

(a) General. Disclose a registrant’s GHG emissions, as defined in § 229.1500(h), for its most recently completed fiscal year, and for the historical fiscal years included in its consolidated financial statements in the filing, to the extent such historical GHG emissions data is reasonably available.

(1) For each required disclosure of a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, disclose the emissions both disaggregated by each constituent greenhouse gas, as specified in § 229.1500(g), and in the aggregate, expressed in terms of CO2e.

(2) When disclosing a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, exclude the impact of any purchased or generated offsets.

(b) Scopes 1 and 2 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 1 emissions and total Scope 2 emissions separately after calculating them from all sources that are included in the registrant’s organizational and operational boundaries.

(2) When calculating emissions pursuant to paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a registrant may exclude emissions from investments that are not consolidated, are not proportionately consolidated, or that do not qualify for the equity method of accounting in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(c) Scope 3 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions if material. A registrant must also disclose its Scope 3 emissions if it has set a GHG emissions reduction target or goal that includes its Scope 3 emissions. Disclosure of a registrant’s Scope 3 emissions must be separate from disclosure of its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, identify the categories of upstream or downstream activities that have been included in the calculation of the Scope 3 emissions. If any category of Scope 3 emissions is significant to the registrant, identify all such categories and provide Scope 3 emissions data separately for them, together with the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions.

(2) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, describe the data sources used to calculate the registrant’s Scope 3 emissions, including the use of any of the following:

(i) Emissions reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain, and whether such reports were verified by the registrant or a third party, or unverified;

(ii) Data concerning specific activities, as reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain; and

(iii) Data derived from economic studies, published databases, government statistics, industry associations, or other third-party sources outside of a registrant’s value chain, including industry averages of emissions, activities, or economic data.

(3) A smaller reporting company, as defined by §§ 229.10(f)(1), 230.405, and 240.12b-2 of this chapter, is exempt from, and need not comply with, the disclosure requirements of this paragraph (c).

(d) GHG intensity.

(1) Using the sum of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, disclose GHG intensity in terms of metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production relevant to the registrant’s industry for each fiscal year included in the consolidated financial statements. Disclose the basis for the unit of production used.

(2) If Scope 3 emissions are otherwise disclosed, separately disclose GHG intensity using Scope 3 emissions only.

(3) If a registrant has no revenue or unit of production for a fiscal year, it must disclose another financial measure of GHG intensity or another measure of GHG intensity per unit of economic output, as applicable, with an explanation of why the particular measure was used.

(4) A registrant may also disclose other measures of GHG intensity, in addition to metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production, if it includes an explanation of why a particular measure was used and why the registrant believes such measure provides useful information to investors.

(e) Methodology and related instructions.

(1) A registrant must describe the methodology, significant inputs, and significant assumptions used to calculate its GHG emissions. The description of the registrant’s methodology must include the registrant’s organizational boundaries, operational boundaries (including any approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources), calculation approach (including any emission factors used and the source of the emission factors), and any calculation tools used to calculate the GHG emissions. A registrant’s description of its approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources should explain how it determined the emissions to include as direct emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 1 emissions, and indirect emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 2 emissions.

(2) The organizational boundary and any determination of whether a registrant owns or controls a particular source for GHG emissions must be consistent with the scope of entities, operations, assets, and other holdings within its business organization as those included in, and based upon the same set of accounting principles applicable to, the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(3) A registrant must use the same organizational boundaries when calculating its Scope 1 emissions and Scope 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must also apply the same organizational boundaries used when determining its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions as an initial step in identifying the sources of indirect emissions from activities in its value chain over which it lacks ownership and control and which must be included in the calculation of its Scope 3 emissions. Once a registrant has determined its organizational and operational boundaries, a registrant must be consistent in its use of those boundaries when calculating its GHG emissions.

(4) A registrant may use reasonable estimates when disclosing its GHG emissions as long as it also describes the assumptions underlying, and its reasons for using, the estimates.

(i) When disclosing its GHG emissions for its most recently completed fiscal year, if actual reported data is not reasonably available, a registrant may use a reasonable estimate of its GHG emissions for its fourth fiscal quarter, together with actual, determined GHG emissions data for the first three fiscal quarters, as long as the registrant promptly discloses in a subsequent filing any material difference between the estimate used and the actual, determined GHG emissions data for the fourth fiscal quarter.

(ii) In addition to the use of reasonable estimates, a registrant may present its estimated Scope 3 emissions in terms of a range as long as it discloses its reasons for using the range and the underlying assumptions.

(5) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any use of third-party data when calculating its GHG emissions, regardless of the particular scope of emissions. When disclosing the use of third-party data, it must identify the source of such data and the process the registrant undertook to obtain and assess such data.

(6) A registrant must disclose any material change to the methodology or assumptions underlying its GHG emissions disclosure from the previous fiscal year.

(7) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any gaps in the data required to calculate its GHG emissions. A registrant’s GHG emissions disclosure should provide investors with a reasonably complete understanding of the registrant’s GHG emissions in each scope of emissions. If a registrant discloses any data gaps encountered when calculating its GHG emissions, it must also discuss whether it used proxy data or another method to address such gaps, and how its accounting for any data gaps has affected the accuracy or completeness of its GHG emissions disclosure.

(8) When determining whether its Scope 3 emissions are material, and when disclosing those emissions, in addition to emissions from activities in its value chain, a registrant must include GHG emissions from outsourced activities that it previously conducted as part of its own operations, as reflected in the financial statements for the periods covered in the filing.

(9) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, when calculating those emissions, if there was any significant overlap in the categories of activities producing the Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must describe the overlap, how it accounted for the overlap, and the effect on its disclosed total Scope 3 emissions.

(f) Liability for Scope 3 emissions disclosures.

(1) A statement within the coverage of paragraph (f)(2) of this section that is made by or on behalf of a registrant is deemed not to be a fraudulent statement (as defined in paragraph (f)(3) of this section), unless it is shown that such statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis or was disclosed other than in good faith.

(2) This paragraph (f) applies to any statement regarding Scope 3 emissions that is disclosed pursuant to §§ 229.1500 through 229.1506 and made in a document filed with the Commission.

(3) For the purpose of this paragraph (f), the term fraudulent statement shall mean a statement that is an untrue statement of material fact, a statement false or misleading with respect to any material fact, an omission to state a material fact necessary to make a statement not misleading, or that constitutes the employment of a manipulative, deceptive, or fraudulent device, contrivance, scheme, transaction, act, practice, course of business, or an artifice to defraud as those terms are used in the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or the rules or regulations promulgated thereunder.

CorpFin Budget Request

On May 17, 2022, Chair Gary Gensler testified about the SEC’s budget request before the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government U.S. House Appropriations Committee.  His testimony contains several interesting statistics.  While SEC headcount has decreased in the last five years, the number of entities registered and subject to SEC oversight has increased by 12%.  In addition, the volume of data processed by the SEC has grown by 20% annually over the last two years.

His remarks about CorpFin are consistent with this trend:

“The Division of Corporation Finance has shrunk 19 percent since 2016. The FY23 budget request would still leave us 8 percent shy of the number of FTEs we had in FY16.

The Division oversees the disclosures of registered issuers so that investors have the material information they need to make informed investment decisions. Like other Divisions, their responsibilities have grown in recent years.

In FY16, Corporation Finance reviewed filings related to approximately 510 new registrants. That grew almost fourfold last year, to 1,960. Initial public offerings create new disclosures and ongoing streams of work for which SEC staff are responsible. Our role in protecting investors is heightened when a company is being introduced to public investors for the first time.

And yet, during that time, the staff of the Division fell. The Division’s ability to review filings of existing registrants is more limited given transaction volume and complexity of deals.”

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

The SEC’s Proposed Climate-Related Disclosures: Post Seven – Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Disclosures

In the first post in this series, we overviewed the three main areas addressed in the SEC’s Proposed Rule for climate-related disclosures:

  • Governance, strategy, risk and related disclosures outside the financial statements
  • Greenhouse gas emission disclosures and attestation requirements
  • Financial statement disclosures

As you may have heard and can read about in this Press Release, the comment period for this proposal ended June 17, 2022.

Subsequent posts in this series have addressed proposed disclosures for:

This post explores proposed disclosures for Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.  The next post will focus on greenhouse gas intensity and methodology disclosures.  As a reminder, these disclosures would be required for all companies in their annual reports on Forms 10-K and 20-F, with updates on Forms 10-Q and 6-K.  Smaller reporting companies would not be subject to the Scope 3 disclosure requirements.

A Starting Note

Much of approach in the proposed rule is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol).  The GHG Protocol is designed to provide “comprehensive global standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions.”  You can learn about the protocol and get information about available tools to build a reliable GHG inventory at the GHG Protocol website.

General Disclosure Requirements

As a reminder from our last post, the overall disclosure requirement specifies what must be disclosed and for which periods.   The proposed rule would require that companies disclose their GHG emissions, as defined in proposed S-K Item 1500(h).

Proposed S-K Item 1500(h) provides this definition of GHG emissions:

GHG emissions means direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases expressed in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), of which: (1) Direct emissions are GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a registrant. (2) Indirect emissions are GHG emissions that result from the activities of the registrant, but occur at sources not owned or controlled by the registrant.

Direct and indirect GHG emissions would be disclosed using the definitions of Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions which are included in S-K 1500 and are based on the definitions in the GHG Protocol.  The disclosures would also be required to be disaggregated by type of greenhouse gas and in the aggregate in terms of CO2e.  (Our previous post discusses the requirement for Scopes 1 and 2 emissions.)

The various types of greenhouse gases are specified in proposed S-K Item 1500(g):

Greenhouse gases (“GHG”) means carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (“CH4”), nitrous oxide (“N2O”), nitrogen trifluoride (“NF3”), hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”), perfluorocarbons (“PFCs”), and sulfur hexafluoride (“SF6”)

In addition, disclosures of Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions would exclude the impact of any purchased or generated offsets. 

The periods specified in the proposed rule are the most recently completed fiscal year, and “to the extent such historical GHG emissions data is reasonably available,” for earlier years included in its consolidated financial statements.

 

Scope 3 Emissions 

The Proposed Rule would require companies to disclose total Scope 3 emissions if they are material or if the company has set “a GHG emissions reduction target or goal that includes its Scope 3 emissions.”  This amount would be disclosed separately from Scopes 1 and 2 emissions.

Disclosure would include categories of upstream or downstream activities.  Additionally, if any categories of Scope 3 emissions are significant, Scope 3 emissions data would be presented separately for such categories.

Proposed S-K Item 1500 includes this definition of Scope 3 emissions:

 Scope 3 emissions are all indirect GHG emissions not otherwise included in a registrant’s Scope 2 emissions, which occur in the upstream and downstream activities of a registrant’s value chain.

(1) Upstream activities in which Scope 3 emissions might occur include:

(i) A registrant’s purchased goods and services;

(ii) A registrant’s capital goods;

(iii) A registrant’s fuel and energy related activities not included in Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions;

(iv) Transportation and distribution of purchased goods, raw materials, and other inputs;

(v) Waste generated in a registrant’s operations;

(vi) Business travel by a registrant’s employees;

(vii) Employee commuting by a registrant’s employees; and

(viii) A registrant’s leased assets related principally to purchased or acquired goods or services.

(2) Downstream activities in which Scope 3 emissions might occur include:

(i) Transportation and distribution of a registrant’s sold products, goods or other outputs;

(ii) Processing by a third party of a registrant’s sold products;

(iii) Use by a third party of a registrant’s sold products;

(iv) End-of-life treatment by a third party of a registrant’s sold products;

(v) A registrant’s leased assets related principally to the sale or disposition of goods or services;

(vi) A registrant’s franchises; and

(vii) Investments by a registrant.

Disclosure would also include the data sources used to calculate the registrant’s Scope 3 emissions, including the use of any of the following:

Emissions reported by entities in the company’s “value chain” and whether such information is verified or unverified;

Information about specific activities reported by entities in the company’s value chain; and

Information “derived from economic studies, published databases, government statistics, industry associations, or other third-party sources.”

Smaller reporting companies would not be required to disclose Scope 3 emissions.

Summary

The complexity and related costs of identifying and estimating Scope 3 emissions have been the subject of comments in the SEC’s rulemaking process.  Our next post will explore the proposed intensity and methodology disclosures for greenhouse gas emission.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

_________________________________________________________________________

For reference, here is proposed S-K Item 1504:

(Item 1504) GHG emissions metrics.

(a) General. Disclose a registrant’s GHG emissions, as defined in § 229.1500(h), for its most recently completed fiscal year, and for the historical fiscal years included in its consolidated financial statements in the filing, to the extent such historical GHG emissions data is reasonably available.

(1) For each required disclosure of a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, disclose the emissions both disaggregated by each constituent greenhouse gas, as specified in § 229.1500(g), and in the aggregate, expressed in terms of CO2e.

(2) When disclosing a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, exclude the impact of any purchased or generated offsets.

(b) Scopes 1 and 2 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 1 emissions and total Scope 2 emissions separately after calculating them from all sources that are included in the registrant’s organizational and operational boundaries.

(2) When calculating emissions pursuant to paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a registrant may exclude emissions from investments that are not consolidated, are not proportionately consolidated, or that do not qualify for the equity method of accounting in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(c) Scope 3 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions if material. A registrant must also disclose its Scope 3 emissions if it has set a GHG emissions reduction target or goal that includes its Scope 3 emissions. Disclosure of a registrant’s Scope 3 emissions must be separate from disclosure of its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, identify the categories of upstream or downstream activities that have been included in the calculation of the Scope 3 emissions. If any category of Scope 3 emissions is significant to the registrant, identify all such categories and provide Scope 3 emissions data separately for them, together with the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions.

(2) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, describe the data sources used to calculate the registrant’s Scope 3 emissions, including the use of any of the following:

(i) Emissions reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain, and whether such reports were verified by the registrant or a third party, or unverified;

(ii) Data concerning specific activities, as reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain; and

(iii) Data derived from economic studies, published databases, government statistics, industry associations, or other third-party sources outside of a registrant’s value chain, including industry averages of emissions, activities, or economic data.

(3) A smaller reporting company, as defined by §§ 229.10(f)(1), 230.405, and 240.12b-2 of this chapter, is exempt from, and need not comply with, the disclosure requirements of this paragraph (c).

(d) GHG intensity.

(1) Using the sum of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, disclose GHG intensity in terms of metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production relevant to the registrant’s industry for each fiscal year included in the consolidated financial statements. Disclose the basis for the unit of production used.

(2) If Scope 3 emissions are otherwise disclosed, separately disclose GHG intensity using Scope 3 emissions only.

(3) If a registrant has no revenue or unit of production for a fiscal year, it must disclose another financial measure of GHG intensity or another measure of GHG intensity per unit of economic output, as applicable, with an explanation of why the particular measure was used.

(4) A registrant may also disclose other measures of GHG intensity, in addition to metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production, if it includes an explanation of why a particular measure was used and why the registrant believes such measure provides useful information to investors.

(e) Methodology and related instructions.

(1) A registrant must describe the methodology, significant inputs, and significant assumptions used to calculate its GHG emissions. The description of the registrant’s methodology must include the registrant’s organizational boundaries, operational boundaries (including any approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources), calculation approach (including any emission factors used and the source of the emission factors), and any calculation tools used to calculate the GHG emissions. A registrant’s description of its approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources should explain how it determined the emissions to include as direct emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 1 emissions, and indirect emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 2 emissions.

(2) The organizational boundary and any determination of whether a registrant owns or controls a particular source for GHG emissions must be consistent with the scope of entities, operations, assets, and other holdings within its business organization as those included in, and based upon the same set of accounting principles applicable to, the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(3) A registrant must use the same organizational boundaries when calculating its Scope 1 emissions and Scope 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must also apply the same organizational boundaries used when determining its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions as an initial step in identifying the sources of indirect emissions from activities in its value chain over which it lacks ownership and control and which must be included in the calculation of its Scope 3 emissions. Once a registrant has determined its organizational and operational boundaries, a registrant must be consistent in its use of those boundaries when calculating its GHG emissions.

(4) A registrant may use reasonable estimates when disclosing its GHG emissions as long as it also describes the assumptions underlying, and its reasons for using, the estimates.

(i) When disclosing its GHG emissions for its most recently completed fiscal year, if actual reported data is not reasonably available, a registrant may use a reasonable estimate of its GHG emissions for its fourth fiscal quarter, together with actual, determined GHG emissions data for the first three fiscal quarters, as long as the registrant promptly discloses in a subsequent filing any material difference between the estimate used and the actual, determined GHG emissions data for the fourth fiscal quarter.

(ii) In addition to the use of reasonable estimates, a registrant may present its estimated Scope 3 emissions in terms of a range as long as it discloses its reasons for using the range and the underlying assumptions.

(5) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any use of third-party data when calculating its GHG emissions, regardless of the particular scope of emissions. When disclosing the use of third-party data, it must identify the source of such data and the process the registrant undertook to obtain and assess such data.

(6) A registrant must disclose any material change to the methodology or assumptions underlying its GHG emissions disclosure from the previous fiscal year.

(7) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any gaps in the data required to calculate its GHG emissions. A registrant’s GHG emissions disclosure should provide investors with a reasonably complete understanding of the registrant’s GHG emissions in each scope of emissions. If a registrant discloses any data gaps encountered when calculating its GHG emissions, it must also discuss whether it used proxy data or another method to address such gaps, and how its accounting for any data gaps has affected the accuracy or completeness of its GHG emissions disclosure.

(8) When determining whether its Scope 3 emissions are material, and when disclosing those emissions, in addition to emissions from activities in its value chain, a registrant must include GHG emissions from outsourced activities that it previously conducted as part of its own operations, as reflected in the financial statements for the periods covered in the filing.

(9) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, when calculating those emissions, if there was any significant overlap in the categories of activities producing the Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must describe the overlap, how it accounted for the overlap, and the effect on its disclosed total Scope 3 emissions.

(f) Liability for Scope 3 emissions disclosures.

(1) A statement within the coverage of paragraph (f)(2) of this section that is made by or on behalf of a registrant is deemed not to be a fraudulent statement (as defined in paragraph (f)(3) of this section), unless it is shown that such statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis or was disclosed other than in good faith.

(2) This paragraph (f) applies to any statement regarding Scope 3 emissions that is disclosed pursuant to §§ 229.1500 through 229.1506 and made in a document filed with the Commission.

(3) For the purpose of this paragraph (f), the term fraudulent statement shall mean a statement that is an untrue statement of material fact, a statement false or misleading with respect to any material fact, an omission to state a material fact necessary to make a statement not misleading, or that constitutes the employment of a manipulative, deceptive, or fraudulent device, contrivance, scheme, transaction, act, practice, course of business, or an artifice to defraud as those terms are used in the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or the rules or regulations promulgated thereunder.

Brinks Hijacked on “Pre-taliation” Whistleblower Claims

Thanks to Gary Brown of Nelson Mullins for this post!

On June 22, 2022, the SEC announced a settled enforcement case against The Brink’s Company.  The case is based on provisions in Brink’s employee confidentiality agreements that all new employees were required to sign that prohibited disclosing confidential information without prior written approval from the company.  The prohibition was expansive enough to include bringing financial data and other internal records to regulators, which is exactly the sort of information one is likely to include in a whistleblower complaint. The allegations set forth in the SEC’s Order pointed out that despite its knowledge that the SEC was stepping up enforcement in this area, in 2015, the legal team for Brink’s rank and file employees actually made its confidentiality agreements even more restrictive.  These 2015 additions included provisions for liquidated damages ($75,000) and payment of legal fees for any employee.

This case is the latest in a series focused on the whistleblower protection provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act, and specifically Rule 21F-17, which states in part:

(a) No person may take any action to impede an individual from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation, including enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a confidentiality agreement . . . with respect to such communications.

Brink’s confidentiality agreements did not include an exception for disclosing information to the SEC via its whistleblower program.  As discussed in the SEC’s Order, Brinks will pay a $400,000 civil penalty and must take steps to notify employees that they may provide confidential information to the SEC (and other government agencies) despite the terms of their confidentiality agreements.

Earlier cases that send this same message include:

Pre-taliation clauses are one of the great unforced errors in corporate compliance. You are accountable even if you don’t enforce the agreement – inclusion of the offending language is enough to violate the rule.  So – do a keyword search in your policy manual and form agreements, find any offending examples, and then press the DELETE key. That’s your remediation.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

The SEC’s Proposed Climate-Related Disclosures: Post Six – Scopes 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Disclosures

In the first post in this series, we overviewed the three main areas addressed in the SEC’s Proposed Rule for climate-related disclosures:

  • Governance, strategy, risk and related disclosures outside the financial statements
  • Greenhouse gas emission disclosures and attestation requirements
  • Financial statement disclosures

 As you may have heard and can read about in this Press Release, the comment period for this proposal ended June 17, 2022.

Subsequent posts in this series have addressed proposed disclosures for:

This post explores proposed disclosures for Scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions.  The next post will focus on Scope 3 disclosures and the post after that on intensity and methodology disclosures.  As a reminder, these disclosures would be required for all companies in their annual reports on Forms 10-K and 20-F, with updates on Forms 10-Q and 6-K.  Smaller reporting companies would not be subject to the Scope 3 disclosure requirements.  The disclosures about Scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions fall into the following categories:

  • General disclosure requirements
  • Scopes 1 and 2 emissions

A Starting Note

Much of approach in the proposed rule is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol).  The GHG Protocol is designed to provide “comprehensive global standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions.”  You can learn about the protocol and get information about available tools to build a reliable GHG inventory at the GHG Protocol website.

General Disclosure Requirements

The overall disclosure requirement specifies what must be disclosed and for which periods.   The proposed rule would require that companies disclose their GHG emissions, as defined in proposed S-K Item 1500(h).

Proposed S-K Item 1500(h) provides this definition of GHG emissions:

GHG emissions means direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases expressed in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), of which: (1) Direct emissions are GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a registrant. (2) Indirect emissions are GHG emissions that result from the activities of the registrant, but occur at sources not owned or controlled by the registrant.

Direct and indirect GHG emissions would be disclosed using the definitions of Scopes 1 and 2 emissions which are included in S-K 1500 and are based on the definitions in the GHG Protocol.  The disclosures would also be required to be disaggregated by type of greenhouse gas and in the aggregate in terms of CO2e.

The various types of greenhouse gases are specified in proposed S-K Item 1500(g):

Greenhouse gases (“GHG”) means carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (“CH4”), nitrous oxide (“N2O”), nitrogen trifluoride (“NF3”), hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”), perfluorocarbons (“PFCs”), and sulfur hexafluoride (“SF6”)

In addition, disclosures of Scopes 1, and 2 emissions would exclude the impact of any purchased or generated offsets.

The periods specified in the proposed rule are the most recently completed fiscal year, and “to the extent such historical GHG emissions data is reasonably available,” for earlier years included in its consolidated financial statements.

Scopes 1 and 2 Emissions

Companies would be required to separately disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.  To calculate these amounts a company must first determine its organizational and operational boundaries.

 The definitions of organizational and operational boundaries are in proposed S-K Item 1500:

Operational boundaries means the boundaries that determine the direct and indirect emissions associated with the business operations owned or controlled by a registrant.

Organizational boundaries means the boundaries that determine the operations owned or controlled by a registrant for the purpose of calculating its GHG emissions

Each company would develop an appropriate methodology and the required information and estimates to determine Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.  Information about process and estimates must also be disclosed, as discussed in a later post.

When calculating Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions a company may exclude emissions from investments that are not consolidated, are not consolidated using proportionate consolidation or that do not scope into equity method accounting.

Summary

The complexity and related costs, along with the measurement challenges in estimating GHG emissions are likely to be the subject of comments in the SEC’s rulemaking process.  Our next post will explore the proposed disclosures for Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

For reference, here is proposed S-K Item 1504:

(Item 1504) GHG emissions metrics.

(a) General. Disclose a registrant’s GHG emissions, as defined in § 229.1500(h), for its most recently completed fiscal year, and for the historical fiscal years included in its consolidated financial statements in the filing, to the extent such historical GHG emissions data is reasonably available.

(1) For each required disclosure of a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, disclose the emissions both disaggregated by each constituent greenhouse gas, as specified in § 229.1500(g), and in the aggregate, expressed in terms of CO2e.

(2) When disclosing a registrant’s Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, exclude the impact of any purchased or generated offsets.

(b) Scopes 1 and 2 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 1 emissions and total Scope 2 emissions separately after calculating them from all sources that are included in the registrant’s organizational and operational boundaries.

(2) When calculating emissions pursuant to paragraph (b)(1) of this section, a registrant may exclude emissions from investments that are not consolidated, are not proportionately consolidated, or that do not qualify for the equity method of accounting in the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(c) Scope 3 emissions.

(1) Disclose the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions if material. A registrant must also disclose its Scope 3 emissions if it has set a GHG emissions reduction target or goal that includes its Scope 3 emissions. Disclosure of a registrant’s Scope 3 emissions must be separate from disclosure of its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, identify the categories of upstream or downstream activities that have been included in the calculation of the Scope 3 emissions. If any category of Scope 3 emissions is significant to the registrant, identify all such categories and provide Scope 3 emissions data separately for them, together with the registrant’s total Scope 3 emissions.

(2) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, describe the data sources used to calculate the registrant’s Scope 3 emissions, including the use of any of the following:

(i) Emissions reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain, and whether such reports were verified by the registrant or a third party, or unverified;

(ii) Data concerning specific activities, as reported by parties in the registrant’s value chain; and

(iii) Data derived from economic studies, published databases, government statistics, industry associations, or other third-party sources outside of a registrant’s value chain, including industry averages of emissions, activities, or economic data.

(3) A smaller reporting company, as defined by §§ 229.10(f)(1), 230.405, and 240.12b-2 of this chapter, is exempt from, and need not comply with, the disclosure requirements of this paragraph (c).

(d) GHG intensity.

(1) Using the sum of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, disclose GHG intensity in terms of metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production relevant to the registrant’s industry for each fiscal year included in the consolidated financial statements. Disclose the basis for the unit of production used.

(2) If Scope 3 emissions are otherwise disclosed, separately disclose GHG intensity using Scope 3 emissions only.

(3) If a registrant has no revenue or unit of production for a fiscal year, it must disclose another financial measure of GHG intensity or another measure of GHG intensity per unit of economic output, as applicable, with an explanation of why the particular measure was used.

(4) A registrant may also disclose other measures of GHG intensity, in addition to metric tons of CO2e per unit of total revenue (using the registrant’s reporting currency) and per unit of production, if it includes an explanation of why a particular measure was used and why the registrant believes such measure provides useful information to investors.

(e) Methodology and related instructions.

(1) A registrant must describe the methodology, significant inputs, and significant assumptions used to calculate its GHG emissions. The description of the registrant’s methodology must include the registrant’s organizational boundaries, operational boundaries (including any approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources), calculation approach (including any emission factors used and the source of the emission factors), and any calculation tools used to calculate the GHG emissions. A registrant’s description of its approach to categorization of emissions and emissions sources should explain how it determined the emissions to include as direct emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 1 emissions, and indirect emissions, for the purpose of calculating its Scope 2 emissions.

(2) The organizational boundary and any determination of whether a registrant owns or controls a particular source for GHG emissions must be consistent with the scope of entities, operations, assets, and other holdings within its business organization as those included in, and based upon the same set of accounting principles applicable to, the registrant’s consolidated financial statements.

(3) A registrant must use the same organizational boundaries when calculating its Scope 1 emissions and Scope 2 emissions. If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must also apply the same organizational boundaries used when determining its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions as an initial step in identifying the sources of indirect emissions from activities in its value chain over which it lacks ownership and control and which must be included in the calculation of its Scope 3 emissions. Once a registrant has determined its organizational and operational boundaries, a registrant must be consistent in its use of those boundaries when calculating its GHG emissions.

(4) A registrant may use reasonable estimates when disclosing its GHG emissions as long as it also describes the assumptions underlying, and its reasons for using, the estimates.

(i) When disclosing its GHG emissions for its most recently completed fiscal year, if actual reported data is not reasonably available, a registrant may use a reasonable estimate of its GHG emissions for its fourth fiscal quarter, together with actual, determined GHG emissions data for the first three fiscal quarters, as long as the registrant promptly discloses in a subsequent filing any material difference between the estimate used and the actual, determined GHG emissions data for the fourth fiscal quarter.

(ii) In addition to the use of reasonable estimates, a registrant may present its estimated Scope 3 emissions in terms of a range as long as it discloses its reasons for using the range and the underlying assumptions.

(5) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any use of third-party data when calculating its GHG emissions, regardless of the particular scope of emissions. When disclosing the use of third-party data, it must identify the source of such data and the process the registrant undertook to obtain and assess such data.

(6) A registrant must disclose any material change to the methodology or assumptions underlying its GHG emissions disclosure from the previous fiscal year.

(7) A registrant must disclose, to the extent material and as applicable, any gaps in the data required to calculate its GHG emissions. A registrant’s GHG emissions disclosure should provide investors with a reasonably complete understanding of the registrant’s GHG emissions in each scope of emissions. If a registrant discloses any data gaps encountered when calculating its GHG emissions, it must also discuss whether it used proxy data or another method to address such gaps, and how its accounting for any data gaps has affected the accuracy or completeness of its GHG emissions disclosure.

(8) When determining whether its Scope 3 emissions are material, and when disclosing those emissions, in addition to emissions from activities in its value chain, a registrant must include GHG emissions from outsourced activities that it previously conducted as part of its own operations, as reflected in the financial statements for the periods covered in the filing.

(9) If required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, when calculating those emissions, if there was any significant overlap in the categories of activities producing the Scope 3 emissions, a registrant must describe the overlap, how it accounted for the overlap, and the effect on its disclosed total Scope 3 emissions.

(f) Liability for Scope 3 emissions disclosures.

(1) A statement within the coverage of paragraph (f)(2) of this section that is made by or on behalf of a registrant is deemed not to be a fraudulent statement (as defined in paragraph (f)(3) of this section), unless it is shown that such statement was made or reaffirmed without a reasonable basis or was disclosed other than in good faith.

(2) This paragraph (f) applies to any statement regarding Scope 3 emissions that is disclosed pursuant to §§ 229.1500 through 229.1506 and made in a document filed with the Commission.

(3) For the purpose of this paragraph (f), the term fraudulent statement shall mean a statement that is an untrue statement of material fact, a statement false or misleading with respect to any material fact, an omission to state a material fact necessary to make a statement not misleading, or that constitutes the employment of a manipulative, deceptive, or fraudulent device, contrivance, scheme, transaction, act, practice, course of business, or an artifice to defraud as those terms are used in the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or the rules or regulations promulgated thereunder.

SEC Publishes Spring Rulemaking Agenda

On June 22, 2022, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the U.S Government’s “Spring 2022 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” which includes the SEC’s spring agenda.  The SEC’s agenda includes climate change and cybersecurity in the Final Rule stage and human capital resources disclosures in the Proposed Rule stage.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

SEC Institute Workshop Instructor Opportunities

SEC Institute, a division of PLI, is searching for qualified Workshop Instructors.  Here are the details and follow-up information.

SEC Institute

Workshop Instructor Opportunities

Please contact Robin Goldstein, Director & Sr. Program Attorney, SEC Institute, at rgoldstein@pli.edu 

 Workshop Instructors

SECI is always looking for dynamic speakers to join our team of Workshop Instructors.  Workshop Instructors lead Workshops on various SEC reporting and accounting topics relevant to SEC reporting professionals.

Workshops are led in an interactive style and are designed to make the learning experience participant focused.  Because of the highly technical and complex material in the Workshops, Instructors must use a variety of teaching and discussion techniques to actively engage participants in the learning process and help them accomplish their learning objectives.  Instructors are encouraged to research the companies of our registered participants to identify relevant topics and provide targeted examples designed to encourage participant discussion and questions.

Workshop Topics

SEC Institute offers Workshops in the following practice areas:

  • SEC reporting – Forms 10-K, 10-Q, and 8-K, the proxy statement, Section 16, and MD&A
  • Forms 20-F and 6-K for foreign private issuers
  • Accounting for business combinations
  • Other relevant and timely SEC reporting and accounting topics

Workshop Instructors must have in-depth expertise in one or more of the above-referenced areas.

Requisite Experience and Qualifications

Technical Background

Workshop Instructors must be CPAs with 10 years of demonstrated expertise and possess in-depth, technical understanding of the content, as well as current knowledge of recent developments in SEC reporting and accounting issues most relevant to SEC reporting professionals. Candidates must have prior relevant work experience; such experience may come via public accounting or industry.

Teaching and Communication Skills

Candidates must have prior teaching experience and demonstrated success documented by classroom evaluations or other similar feedback tools.

Honorariums

SECI offers honorariums for teaching SECI Workshops.  A Workshop honorarium will be paid to the Instructor after a Workshop is conducted and such payment encompasses all advance preparation, planning, coordination, and time involved leading up to conducting the Workshop.

Workshop Instructor will also be reimbursed for reasonable hotel, travel, and meal expenses in accordance with PLI’s reimbursement policy in the event the Workshop Instructor is asked to travel to a PLI Conference Center to teach a Workshop.

This nature of this opportunity will be that of an independent contractor, not an employee of PLI.

About SEC Institute (SECI)

Founded in 1983, SEC Institute‘s mission is to provide the most up-to-date SEC reporting, compliance and accounting education through innovative Workshops and programs. SECI is committed to helping public companies, auditors and attorneys stay ever current in meeting the filing and financial reporting requirements of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

About Practising Law Institute (PLI)

Practising Law Institute is a nonprofit learning organization dedicated to keeping attorneys and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise. PLI is chartered by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, and was founded in 1933 by Harold P. Seligson. PLI provides the highest quality, accredited, continuing legal and professional education programs in a variety of formats. This content is delivered by more than 4,000 volunteer faculty, including prominent lawyers, judges, investment bankers, accountants, corporate counsel, and U.S. and international government regulators. PLI publishes a comprehensive library of treatises, course handbooks, answer books and journals, also available through the PLI PLUS online platform. The essence of PLI’s mission is its commitment to the pro bono community.

Interested Applicants
Interested applicants are to submit a biography and resume to rgoldstein@pli.edu for consideration.  Please indicate which practice area(s) you are most interested in instructing.  Only qualified applicants will be contacted.

Practising Law Institute (PLI) is an equal employment opportunity (EEO) employer committed to workplace diversity. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other factor protected by federal, state or local law.

SEC Finalizes Rules to Require Electronic Filing of Annual Reports to Shareholders and Other Documents

On June 2, 2022, the SEC adopted a Final Rule that requires companies to electronically file a number of documents currently filed on paper.  Included in the group of forms that will now be filed electronically are:

  • The annual report to shareholders required by the proxy rules,
  • Certain Rule 144 filings, and
  • Form 11-K, which will also require XBRL tagging.

You can read more details for all the forms that will be required to be filed electronically in this Press Release and the accompanying Fact Sheet.

The phase in requirements include:

  • For the annual report to shareholders, six months after the effective date of the amendments;
  • For Form 144, six months after the date of publication of the final Rule in the Federal Register; and
  • For Form 11-K, including application of XBRL, three years after the effective date of the applicable amendments

The rule will be effective 30 days after Federal Register publication.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!