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Major UK firms to disclose climate change risks and opportunities in 2019 annual reports

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of UK corporates will be disclosing climate-related risks and opportunities in their 2019 annual reporting, according to new figures released by the Carbon Trust. However, fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) of companies are expecting to fully report in line with the recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), released in June 2017.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI as part of its annual Captains of Industry research study, based on interviews with 100 board members from the UK’s top 500 companies.The release of these findings comes just after the World Economic Forum highlighted extreme weather events and the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation as the top risk faced by the world in 2019.Looking across a time frame of the next three years, the most commonly expected advantage from climate change disclosure in line with the TCFD recommendations is reputational, with seven in 10 (72 per cent) believing that this reporting would increase brand value.

At an aggregate level, one third (31 per cent) of respondents see financial benefits, which is composed of improved access to capital (12 per cent), lower cost of capital (10 per cent), and strengthened credit rating (9 per cent).

Other perceived benefits include reduced shareholder pressure or activism (37 per cent), as well as attracting an increased diversity of investors (29 per cent). And one-fifth (21 per cent) of business leaders think that improved climate change reporting will directly result in an increased company valuation.

Conversely, very few respondents foresee negative impacts from revealing their climate change opportunities and risks, with only a handful predicting this would have any effect on investment or borrowing. Three-fifths (59 per cent) do not identify a single disadvantage that would occur for their company in the short-to-medium term by providing disclosures in line with the TCFD recommendations.

It is also of note that despite high profile media coverage of the TCFD recommendations – as well as pledges of support from many of the world’s largest institutional investors, banks and rating agencies  – six in 10 (62 per cent) corporate leaders say they have not been engaged by any of their important investors or other stakeholders over the past year around improving disclosures on climate-related opportunities and risks.

Hugh Jones, Managing Director – Business Services, at the Carbon Trust, commented: “We are now able to see how our changing climate is moving markets more quickly than many had anticipated. Incidents of extreme weather are increasing, the adoption of clean technology is accelerating, and more customers are changing their behaviour. For corporate leaders, going through the process of assessing their company’s climate change opportunities and risks is a vital strategic tool for navigating the necessary transition to a sustainable, low carbon economy.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, representing over 160 investors with over £20 trillion in assets, said: “Climate change has significant consequences for virtually every sector of the economy. It’s a topic business leaders can’t afford to ignore, and while it’s rising-up the corporate agenda, there is still a way to go.

“Reporting on climate-related risks is an essential step to identifying challenges and grasping opportunities to be found in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Many business leaders already recognise this is the case, understanding the financial and reputational benefit it can help unlock. It’s incumbent on others to follow suit and investors play a key role in ensuring this happens.”

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