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This is the third in a series of articles looking at how non-financial disclosure frameworks and advocates are causing companies – and regulators – to reconsider what “materiality” means.  This installment looks at what I call “New materiality”.

The two critical elements of new materiality that radically differ from traditional materiality (financial impacts of ESG initiatives ON the company) are:

  • Assessment and consideration of things that don’t directly affect corporate finances, or may be contingent/not estimable.
  • Assessment and consideration of external stakeholders beyond investors. There is a hidden recursive double-whammy here as it requires understanding both what information external stakeholders consider important, and how the stakeholders will react (which rather depends on the extent and nature of the information made available to them).

Proponents of new materiality believe that it is important for companies to capture – and be accountable for – impacts corporate activities have on society and the environment. In some ways, these can be externalities (as the economists call them) but are a result of a company’s operations and therefore, have responsibility for such impacts.

A good overview of new materiality is here.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile