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Corporate investors are now on the clock

Jul 1, 2022
Illustration of a timer with the earth as the clockface.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Corporations are again asked to fill in where U.S. federal policies fall short.

Why it matters: In light of Thursday's SCOTUS ruling on West Virginia v. EPA, investors are banking on corporations sticking to their ESG and net-zero commitments in good faith.

State of play: The SEC is expected to release final disclosure rules for corporations by the end of the summer, but some companies have gotten ahead of the rules by investing in carbon accounting and ESG data startups through corporate venture funds or off their own balance sheets.

  • Startups in those industries largely sell solely to other businesses and rely on those funds to keep the lights on.

Between the lines: A sudden shift away from disclosures or net-zero commitments on Wall Street could reverberate through Sand Hill Road and Silicon Valley.

What they're saying: "If anything, it assigns even greater importance to the role of corporate investors," FifthWall's Greg Smithies tells Axios.

Yes, but: Companies may be thinking in the short term, given the macroeconomic environment, and reduce spending on areas that seem uncertain.

  • "It might make the transition take a little longer, and it might end up costing more in the end, but investors who are choosing high-emissions gains in the short term are making the wrong economic choice in the long term," Launch investor Molly Wood tells Axios.

The bottom line: "Every company will eventually have to account for, and pay for, its carbon emissions — this ruling doesn't change that at all," Wood says.

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