Kevin Arrington, MAcc
David Murphy, PhD
Ed DeClair, PhD
Today many large corporations voluntarily produce climate-related disclosures with detailed breakdowns of their environmental impact from corporate activities. As consumers have become more concerned with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) requirements and government intervention has increased with environmental impacts, it is no surprise that companies have voluntarily moved to release these reports. Many of the voluntary reports have been longstanding. The authors of “How Green is the Apple?” (2020) author reports that between “2003 and 2018, Apple published 40 product environmental reports, and 24 appeared in 2018 alone that covered 8 product lines” (pg. 314). As another example, Ford published their first Environmental Sustainability report in 1999 and has been publishing annual reports available to the public on Ford’s website. Similarly, Nike released their first Corporate Responsibility Report in 2001, with their very first Corporate Environmental Policy adopted earlier in 1998 (pg. 8). These reports show the social pressure of companies to display “green” behaviors and make an effort to become more sustainable. It is essential to see how societal views impact businesses and their influence on government intervention. In March 2022, the SEC proposed regulations to mandate and standardize climate-related disclosures, raising concerns about the specifics of implementing the new proposed regulations. The proposed regulations aim to help investors understand companies’ potential risks related to the companies’ environmental activities and impact. In the case of the three aforementioned corporations in different industries with a long history of environmental disclosure reports, a surface review of the reports shows there can be some differences, such as metrics reported, methods used in collecting data, and different corporate goals, to name a few. The complexity of the standardization of environmental reports has raised concerns about the type of information to be included in the report and whether the required information will be relevant when considering disclosures across vastly different industries. In addition, there are concerns about required environmental, financial disclosures with annual audited financial statements with a materiality threshold of 1%, which may impose a high compliance burden, especially for smaller companies. In light of these concerns, this paper will contain a brief overview of the differences between a sample of current voluntary corporate disclosures, explore the SEC proposed regulations, and concerns about scope 3 emissions and the effect on accounting practices from the proposed regulations. It will support reporting scope 3 emissions and propose the standardization of emissions factors to solve the current issues of scope 3 emissions estimations.
Alvarado, Paloma, "SEC Proposed Regulations on Climate Related Disclosures and Climate Related Risks" (2023). Undergraduate Theses and Capstone Projects. 292.