NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / November 14, 2022 / On 10 November 2022, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)-a major ESG regulation that brings together financial data, ESG information and assurance for the first time. The full proposal text can be read here.
The vote was a landslide with 525 in favour, 60 against and 28 abstaining. Closing the debate the night before, Commissioner Mairead McGuinness concluded that "sustainability is the only path to be on."
For organizations either based in the EU or that have subsidiaries within the region, that path is now unavoidable. With the CSRD confirmed, companies are facing up to some unavoidable facts:
ESG is entering the annual reporting process
Sustainability information will sit alongside financial information
The amount of data that needs to be collected will greatly increase
So too will the number of people involved in the integrated reporting process
Sustainability information will be audited
The mandate aims to increase trust in ESG reports and bring greater transparency to sustainability information. It's one of the single biggest changes to the annual reporting process in a very long time, and it will force organizations to rethink their reporting.
Right now, 98% of finance professionals in Europe are concerned about ESG metrics being added to the annual report. And understandably so. Accommodating more people, more data and more work within the same timeframes presents significant logistical challenges.
The drives to minimize risk and ensure data integrity are the two biggest concerns for organizations' future reporting cycles. To address these concerns, it's necessary to bring about meaningful, targeted transformation that eases workloads while increasing trust in data, ensuring transparency, and strengthening collaboration across traditionally siloed teams.
What is the CSRD?
First, it's important to know what the regulation is. In short, the CSRD is a piece of EU legislation that establishes environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting requirements for organizations. The aim is to expand upon and replace the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD)-a regulation criticized, in part, for its implication that ESG has no financial relevance.
With the CSRD, there is no ambiguity. Sustainability information, which includes topics within ESG and is defined across 13 standards, is entering the front end of the annual report. It will need to be treated with the same degree of rigour and suspicion as financial information.
Who will the CSRD impact?
In total, around 50,000 organisations will need to comply with the CSRD. As for when they'll need to ensure compliance, the European Commission has planned a phased rollout:
FY'24: For all organizations that are already within the existing scope of the NFRD (currently around 11,700 organisations)
FY'25: All "large" organizations-firms with a net turnover of €40 million or more, at least €20 million in assets and 250+ employees
Later: All listed companies, including listed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but with the exception of micro enterprises
Importantly, the CSRD will also impact non-EU companies with EU-based subsidiaries, or with securities on EU-regulated markets, which have a net turnover of over €150m within the EU. Because the CSRD was introduced following Brexit, the UK will also be treated as a third country.
Limited, and reasonable, assurance are both on the table
We now know that public organizations will also need to include an assurance report for sustainability disclosures-but not right away. Here's how the rollout is going to work:
October 2026: On or before 1 October 2026, the Commission will provide limited assurance standards for auditors to use when assessing the assurance of sustainability reports
October 2028: On or before 1 October 2028, reasonable assurance standards will be provided-but only if it's determined that reasonable assurance is feasible for auditors
The move towards greater assurance within the EU is significant. It means that organizations need oversight of all data within the integrated reporting process. The CSRD will greatly expand the scope of what needs to be reported and who needs to be involved, which could introduce new risk within the process-organizations will need to find ways to contain and minimize this risk.
A digital format has been mandated
The confirmation that the CSRD will require a digital format and the use of a digital taxonomy shouldn't come as a surprise. The measures introduced when the European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) came into force in early 2022 will, most likely, be incorporated within the CSRD. By the time the CSRD comes into force, all affected organizations will have some level of comfort with XBRL®/ iXBRLTM tagging and converting to the iXHTML format. They will have likely established a process and taken steps to improve on it.
The motivation behind this move is clear. The CSRD has been created to bring greater trust and transparency to ESG reports, better demonstrate the financial value of sustainability information and improve the accessibility of ESG reports. For investors to act on this information, it needs to be presented in a standardized format that enables comparability. It needs to be digital.
How to prepare for the CSRD
There are three main tenets that organizations will focus on during their preparations: trust, transparency, and collaboration.
Trust: Organizations want to feel as confident in their sustainability information as they do in their financial information-they'll look at how to ensure data accuracy and consistency
Transparency: They'll work towards gaining greater oversight of both data and process
Collaboration: And they'll establish seamless, open channels of communication and collaboration to reduce time-to-market
The passing of the CSRD is a significant milestone that will bring greater accountability to ESG reporting across the EU. Incidentally, it will also lead to widespread reformation of long-established reporting practices. The status quo for annual reporting is changing: the CSRD is the spark that's lighting the fire.
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