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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

The pressure to improve company ESG profiles, ratings and images is pushing companies to fake it – or even falsify data. This article from Axios looks at senior executive views on their organizations’ sustainability progress versus what the companies state publicly:

New polling results from The Harris Poll taken for Google Cloud, and shared first with Axios, show that senior executives at large companies around the world are prioritizing sustainability goals and feel confident in their company’s progress.

Yes, but: However, many of these same corporate leaders say that “green hypocrisy exists” and that their own company has overstated its sustainability progress.

– Just 36% of respondents said their organizations have measurement tools in place that allow them to track their progress in detail.

– 58% of respondents said their organization is guilty of greenwashing. This finding was especially high in North America, where 72% of respondents said their organization has done this.

In China, new reports have emerged concerning climate data fraud. In a translation of the announcement from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the agency

… carried out in-depth on-site supervision and inspection around key links such as coal sampling, coal quality testing, data verification and report compilation. It was found that China Carbon Energy Investment Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. and other institutions tampered with forged testing reports and made false Outstanding problems such as coal samples and distortion of report conclusions.

The announcement laid out their detailed findings.

China News reported that a spokesman said the Ministry has “zero tolerance” for fraudulent carbon emissions data, but also acknowledged underlying failures across the system:

  • “Weak” awareness of the laws/regulations;
  • “Some consulting and testing institutions are driven by interests to take risks and use fraudulent means to help enterprises tamper with carbon emissions data”;
  • “quality control systems of some technical service institutions is missing [and] the program management is chaotic”; and
  • Verification processes are not implemented.

Other companies named in the report for similar issues were Beijing Zhongchuang Carbon Investment Technology Co., Ltd (also referred to as Zhongchuan Carbon Investment), Qingdao Jinuo New Energy Co., Ltd, and Liaoning East Coal Testing and Analysis Research Institute Co., Ltd.

What This Means

These stories are examples following yesterday’s blog on governance of E&S. Senior executives and boards cannot allow their organizations to make public E&S statements and commitments that have not been properly vetted. The developments in China, along with prior revelations about carbon offset scams and emissions reporting fraud in Australia, should heighten sensitivity about governance/over climate information used, reported and relied on.

The recent SEC proposed rule would require companies to disclose information concerning the board’s oversight of climate-related risks and management’s role in assessing and managing those risks. Companies should consider implementing similar oversight for all E&S reports, data and statements. Not to be a broken record from yesterday, but our upcoming webcast on establishing governance structures to navigate the most concerning E&S issues, is scheduled for May 10th at 2pm Eastern – “Putting the ‘G’ First: Oversight of ‘E’ & ‘S’ in ESG“. If you are looking for tips on strengthening internal controls and oversight for E&S data/systems, you will want to hear this webcast.

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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