The Future Landscape of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting

   School of Law

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  Dr Wangwei Lin  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Climate change and environmental degradation as existential threats to the globe have received significant political and academic attention in recent years. International initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have received broad recognition and ratification. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy is key in ensuring sustainability and the long-term economic growth of the global economy, and sustainable development relies heavily on collective global efforts. These are being implemented through the enactment of new laws and regulations globally.

Following the adoption of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in November 2022, the EU has paved the way for an holistic approach towards EU corporate ESG reporting. The UK is also on the way to finding its own model of corporate ESG reporting.

This PhD will focus on searching for a coherent and holistic approach towards ESG reporting for companies globally and for professional reporting services such as accountancy firms and auditing firms globally.

This worldwide economic transition presents new compliance and reputational risks as well as new employment and investment opportunities for companies, investors, and stakeholders. Information about the social and environmental dimensions of a firm’s economic activities is becoming increasingly important for investors as they make investment decisions, and more stringent regulations are therefore called for.

As the carriers of economic activities, corporations form an integral part of green initiatives. The ambitious plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 requires collective endeavors from both individuals and corporations. In the arena of corporate regulations, corporate reporting plays a key role in the climate-related supervision of corporations.

Since late 2018 the EU has been developing a series of climate-related laws and regulations under the Sustainable Finance Action Plan and the European Green Deal, in order to make the EU’s economy more sustainable. Consultations were carried out on sustainable corporate governance and due diligence, the global environment and corporate governance reporting standards, climate change taxonomy and mitigation, and the adaptation of technical screening criteria. A series of legislations has been produced or is being proposed following those consultations. An EU Taxonomy Regulation clarifying how qualified economic activities must contribute to meeting the EU's environmental objectives was produced and adopted in July 2020, and an EU Green Bond Standard is going through the final stages of approval.

A Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (hereafter CSRD) was proposed and adopted in November 2022 to enhance corporate transparency in ESG issues and address ESG information asymmetry risks to better protect investors and stakeholders. The CSRD indicates a shift to a cost-benefit analysis culture, and a transition from informal qualitative-based standard setting to a more quantitative and formalized approach.

In 2019 the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero emission law. The British government amended the Climate Change Act 2008 and set a net zero greenhouse emission target, which must be achieved by 2050.

Prior to Brexit, the requirements in Article 10 of the EU Accounts Modernisation Directive 2003 were incorporated in the Companies Act 2006 in the UK. The ESG reporting requirements in the 2014 Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) were later incorporated in the Companies Act 2006 by amendments. Post-Brexit, the UK is embarking on its own path of ESG disclosure.

Globally, in terms of the disclosure of ESG information, however, there is no streamlined system and coordinated plan in place. There seems to be an overlap as well as gaps between existing legislation. There is therefore a need for a coherent and holistic approach towards ESG reporting for companies worldwide and for professional reporting services. This project will focus on addressing this issue.

Applicants should meet the University’s entry requirements

Law (22)

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 About the Project