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SEC Panel Backs Climate Plan as Peirce Bemoans Cost (Corrected)

Sept. 21, 2022, 4:42 PMUpdated: Sept. 22, 2022, 5:18 PM

The SEC’s advisory panel on investor issues on Wednesday endorsed the agency’s plans to require companies to publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions—including the disclosure of indirect emissions.

Scope 3 emissions from supply chains and other indirect sources matter to investors, Brian Hellmer, a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee, said. His remarks came shortly before the panel recommended that the SEC move forward with the climate reporting proposal it released in March.

“That’s a reasonable thing to ask companies to do given the importance of Scope 3 emissions to many of their business models and given the relative ease in which they can compute those numbers and make those assessments,” said Hellmer, executive director of the nonprofit group Badgers United and a former managing director at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

The advisory committee’s recommendations aren’t binding. The panel includes representatives of AARP and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

During opening remarks at the meeting, Republican SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce urged the panel to think twice about the reporting costs and other corporate burdens imposed by the disclosure proposal.

The SEC needs guidance about cutting companies’ costs under the proposal, Peirce said.

“The commission’s March climate disclosure proposal likely will be very expensive in terms of direct costs, foregone opportunities and increased litigation risks,” she said.

The Investor Advisory Committee acknowledged concerns about costs associated with Scope 3 reporting in its recommendation approved Wednesday. But companies can access a growing number of tools and experts to help them make the disclosures “very cost effectively,” the recommendation said.

The SEC could adopt final rules on corporate climate reporting requirements before year’s end.

Chairman Gary Gensler has expressed some concern that an SEC requirement to report Scope 3 emissions could jeopardize the agency’s broader climate reporting initiative.

But Gensler has also said the Scope 3 emissions reporting would be useful to investors. “We have to ensure that the public companies that are saying this or that about Scope 3 aren’t, frankly, misleading the public,” he said last week during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

(Corrects Hellmer's job title in the third paragraph. He is no longer with the Wisconsin Investment Board. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com