CSRD

EU Taxonomy

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ESG Reporting: Four Strategic Opportunities Beyond Compliance

This article delves into how the ESG reporting requirements of the EU Sustainable Finance Framework are more than just a business expense to reach compliance; they serve as a value-driver and support building a resilient business. Diving into the nuances of ESG reporting, including the CSRD and EU Taxonomy, it illustrates how ESG reporting presents strategic opportunities for risk management, operational efficiency, positive stakeholder relations and strategic decision-making.

ESG Reporting: Four Strategic Opportunities Beyond Compliance

Why the Need for ESG Reporting?

European Union’s Sustainable Finance Framework is a comprehensive approach designed to meet the objective of the EU Green Deal: achieving a climate-neutral European Union by 2050. This Framework includes the EU Taxonomy, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). Together, these standards aim to raise the investments necessary to build a net zero, resilient and sustainable economy.

The introduction of these new reporting requirements marks a pivotal moment in the world of corporate reporting, as sustainability reporting becomes recognised as essential alongside financial reporting. While some organisations may view these requirements as a compliance burden, it is crucial to recognise the deeper significance they hold. Understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between ESG data and financial performance enables companies to move beyond mere compliance. By leveraging this, organisations can mitigate risks and create long-term value. 

This article explores how the ESG reporting requirements of the EU Sustainable Finance Framework are more than just a business expense to reach compliance; they serve as a value driver and support building a resilient business. 

Maximising ESG Reporting Impact: Four Key Strategic Opportunities

During the generation of a sustainability report and after its completion, ESG reporting can be leveraged to support long-term value creation within an organisation. This can be categorised into four main categories of strategic opportunities:

  • Financial management
  • Operational efficiency
  • Stakeholder relations
  • Strategic decision-making
ESG Reporting: four key strategic opportunities

In the next sections, we deep-dive into each of these dimensions and provide examples of how the Double Materiality Assessment (DMA), the CSRD, and the EU Taxonomy, three key elements of European ESG reporting, can contribute to lasting value-driven impact.

ESG Reporting Supports Financial Management

Intrinsically, ESG reporting requires the collection of large amounts of data across different subsidiaries and departments. This helps companies identify and mitigate risks from Environmental, Social, and Governance challenges, transforming sustainability insights into tangible financial advantages and enhancing investor appeal. 

Financial Risk Management

Through collecting and understanding ESG data, companies gain insights into the factors that could impact their financial performance over short, medium, and long-term time horizons. This serves as a catalyst for companies to develop proactive measures to mitigate risks associated with matters such as climate change, resource scarcity, regulatory changes, and stakeholder expectations.

CSRD reporting: data point examples
Quick Reminder
The CSRD establishes a structured framework for companies to systematically identify, assess, and disclose sustainability-related risks. For instance, when performing a Double Materiality Assessment (DMA), the first step in CSRD reporting, organisations identify and assess sustainability matters relevant to their business activities. 

Concretely, the DMA process includes the identification of potential and actual financial risks related to sustainability matters that organisations face from their business as usual. These risks may affect the organisation’s financial position, financial performance and cash flows over the short, medium and long term. As such, an organisation might identify the regulatory risk related to the introduction of new emissions-related regulations from governing bodies, leading to high operating or compliance costs or penalties in case of non-compliance. Mitigation actions can be put in place thereafter.

Climate change, for example, poses significant financial risks to businesses, including physical risks (e.g., property damage from extreme weather events) and transitional risks (e.g., regulatory changes, market shifts towards renewable energy). 

An ESG report that includes data on carbon emissions, energy consumption, and climate-related policies allows organisations to anticipate and manage these risks effectively. By identifying vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with climate change, companies can adjust their strategies, investments, and operations to safeguard their financial health.

CSRD: financial risk management_identification and assessment of risks

Access to Capital

According to the “Sustainable Signals” report by Morgan Stanley, 80% of the 2,800 investors surveyed report considers a company’s reporting on sustainability practices, carbon footprint, and emissions reduction commitments before making an investment decision. As a result, organisations with robust ESG reporting practices are better positioned to access capital at favourable terms. By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability through transparent reporting, companies can attract investment, forge strategic partnerships, and mitigate financial risks in an evolving landscape.

More concretely, the EU Taxonomy requires companies to disclose three KPIs which facilitates comparison between companies: the alignment percentage of Turnover, CapEx and OpEx. Higher alignment levels can help build a positive brand image and reputation, which, in turn, can increase customer loyalty and potentially lead to higher sales and profitability. It may also attract more investors and potentially at a lower cost of capital.

ESG Reporting Drives Operational Efficiency

ESG reporting enhances operational efficiency within an organisation by highlighting areas for process optimisation and boosting overall competitiveness. A good example is the process of identifying risks and opportunities in the DMA. 

Opportunities include savings through efficient transportation, efficient water management resulting in decreasing water costs, and implementing resource-efficient technologies. Risks, on the other hand, help organisations pinpoint where their operations intersect with environmental and social issues, highlighting areas where sustainability risks could affect operational stability and costs. Such risks could include limited access to water in areas prone to drought, reliance on non-renewable energy sources resulting in exposure to energy cost volatility, and poor labour practices resulting in conflicts, strikes, and disrupted operations.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that such data may also assist with identifying innovation opportunities, allowing companies to adapt to changing market demands and emerging sustainability trends.

In the EU Taxonomy, the substantial contribution criteria are often demanding and require companies to operate using state-of-the-art processes. Furthermore, the do-no-significant-harm criteria regularly require companies to assess the circularity of their activities, evaluate the repairability of the materials they use, or adopt techniques and technologies that consume less water or produce less waste. Assessing the feasibility and adopting such best-in-class systems can lead to significant cost reductions and resource savings that, in turn, decrease the risk of supply chain disruption. Read more about assessing the EU Taxonomy Alignment in our dedicated article.

ESG Reporting Builds Strong Stakeholder Relations

Stakeholder Engagement

The ESG reporting process presents a valuable opportunity to enhance stakeholder engagement, building trust and strengthening relationships across the entire value chain. Engagement with the different parties is crucial for understanding their interests and concerns, leading to positive and enduring relationships and mutually beneficial outcomes. 

By design, ESG standards necessitate engagement with numerous stakeholders throughout the organisation. For instance, in the CSRD, a critical phase within the DMA is stakeholder engagement, where the company interacts with affected stakeholders to understand their views and interests related to relevant sustainability matters. Engaging with various stakeholders such as employees, business partners, and customers demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability and willingness to incorporate the stakeholders’ opinions and interests, strengthening long-term relationships. Going forward, stakeholder input is essential when gathering data for the CSRD report, as it includes value chain requirements.

The stakeholder engagement as performed in the DMA must be documented in the CSRD report. An example of this is the disclosure requirement S1-2 within ESRS S1 - Own Workfoce, where the disclosure of the processes for engaging with own workforce and workers’ representatives about impacts is requested.

On the other hand, certain criteria of the EU Taxonomy require companies to assess the sustainability performance of their suppliers. The engagement necessary to perform this assessment can strengthen relationships with stakeholders or redefine relationships between different parties in the value chain.

Finally, the importance of these relationships is amplified by the increased scrutiny of value chains, as seen with the forthcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD).

Stakeholder Trust

Increasing corporate transparency is one of the key objectives of ESG standards like the CSRD and the EU Taxonomy. These frameworks aim to combat greenwashing by ensuring the availability of reliable and comparable data.

This transparency about organisations’ environmental impact, social practices, and governance structures helps stakeholders understand how the company operates and manages risks, leading to increased trust. Also, reports showcasing the organisation's commitment to sustainability fosters a sense of reliability and integrity. 

ESG Reporting Enhances Strategic Decision-Making

Finally, ESG reporting enhances strategic decision-making within organisations by providing a framework that utilises ESG data to inform decisions with accurate, factual information. This data-driven approach improves the accuracy and strategic value of business choices.

Integrating ESG considerations at the board level ensures that sustainability becomes a core component of the business model. Leveraging ESG factors as drivers of long-term value, companies can align their operational and strategic choices, which not only mitigates risks but also capitalises on new opportunities. 

Overall, the integration of insights from ESG reporting in devising strategies fosters long-term success and resilience, preparing organisations to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing global business environment where sustainability is now a crucial consideration.

The outcome of the DMA, which is the list of material sustainability matters, not only ensures compliance and shapes the CSRD report, but also highlights the areas of strategic focus for the company. Compliance with the CSRD requires companies to consider the long-term implications of their actions, integrating sustainability into their strategic planning. This forward-looking approach helps ensure that strategies are robust, future-proof, and aligned with evolving sustainability standards and stakeholder expectations.

CSRD_DMA Matrix with final results
As for the EU Taxonomy, there are currently no alignment targets required by law. However, with a global trend towards more stringent ESG-related regulations, proactive alignment with the EU Taxonomy can prepare companies for future changes in the regulatory landscape, avoiding penalties and ensuring uninterrupted business operations.

ESG Reporting for Corporate Resilience

The EU Sustainable Finance Framework provides a crucial toolkit for companies to align their operations and strategies with the demand for sustainable organisations. ESG reporting is not merely a compliance requirement, it is a strategic asset that empowers organisations to identify risks and leverage opportunities, thus driving operational efficiency, enhancing stakeholder relations, and supporting robust strategic decision-making. 

By integrating sustainability into the core of their business models, companies can ensure that their strategies are not only compliant but also resilient, adaptable, and aligned with the evolving demands of a sustainability-conscious market.

Greenomy: Simplify ESG Compliance, Maximise Impact

Greenomy is specifically designed to tackle the challenges organisations face in meeting ESG requirements. Our end-to-end solution alleviates your reporting burden, allowing you to focus on what truly matters.

In need of expertise for your CSRD/EU Taxonomy reporting? Teaming up with sustainability specialists like Greenomy can offer invaluable insights and assistance, ensuring that your organisation not only meets regulatory demands but also harness your sustainability reporting as a strategic resource. Explore Greenomy's cutting-edge ESG solution that simplifies data collection and reporting, fostering long-term efficacy. Book a call for more information.

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