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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Securities and Exchange Commission held meetings this month with powerful K Street and Wall Street players as regulators mull new rules on corporate disclosure of climate-related risks.

Why it matters: Disclosure could soon move beyond voluntary and private-sector-led efforts to become more deeply embedded in federal regulation.

Driving the news: Recently posted SEC records show a suite of meetings in response to the commission's March request for input.

  • The records show discussions with entities including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, State Street Global Advisors, the Business Roundtable, the Edison Electric Institute, Walmart and others.

The big picture: Recent years have brought a growing push to provide investors and regulators more information about the ways climate change creates risks for many kinds of companies.

  • Think everything from how emissions policy and energy transition could affect fossil fuel producers, users and lenders to ways that climate change can affect physical assets and supply chains.

Catch up fast: The SEC initiative is part of a wider push among financial regulators and overseers.

Federal Reserve board member Lael Brainard recently made comments supportive of compulsory disclosure of financial institutions' risks.

What we're watching: Where various companies and lobbying groups come out on the topic as the SEC considers going beyond its 2010 "guidance" on the topic.

  • The SEC asked for input on a detailed set of questions, but written submissions are not due until mid-June (though some have arrived already).
  • In some, look for less of a yay-or-nay and instead input on how standards should be crafted.
  • "There is a broader base of support for mandatory disclosure than there has ever been before," Steven Rothstein of the sustainable investment advocacy group Ceres tells Axios.

Go deeper

Updated Apr 27, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on climate action in the private sector

On Tuesday, April 27, Axios business editor Dan Primack and markets reporter Courtenay Brown unpacked how businesses are now making sustainability integral to their strategy and minimizing their own carbon footprint, featuring Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert and Ceres CEO & president Mindy Lubber. Ryan Gellert unpacked how businesses play a critical role in addressing climate change, highlighting decisions in supply chain management and utilizing recyclable materials.

  • On centering long-lasting and reusable materials for consumer products in business strategy: "Collectively we're trying to have a lower footprint in the [materials] that we use...We continue to push [this] deeper into the center of the business, partnering with our customers to incentivize them to keep their product and use as long as possible because, ultimately, the most responsible and the most sustainable jacket or pants are ones that already exist."
  • On the need for government and private sector collaboration to address climate issues: "I think that business is now begrudgingly stepping into a space that I think has been under-supported by government...Given the existential nature of the climate and ecological crisis, I think that we're going to need government."

Mindy Lubber discussed the need for CEOs and boards of directors to prioritize sustainability initiatives across their companies and consistently measure themselves against industry benchmarks.

  • On corporations responding to the threat of climate change: "There's no question that there's been a change within the corporate and the financial community. Part of that change has come from the fact that the data is just clear. I mean, let's just think if you have 20 events in the year that cost a billion dollars from climactic changes, that's telling us something."
  • On the need for businesses to support their supply chains with sustainability efforts: "They have to help their suppliers meet those [climate] goals as well. That's training. That's resources...You've got to be consistent on policy at a board level, and you've got to help your supply chain."

Axios Vice President of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top Segment with Salesforce Head of Sustainability Patrick Flynn, who discussed climate change as an equity issue and the need for companies to be transparent about their impact on the environment.

  • "Within ESG—environmental, social and governance—the most important letter is actually 'C' for the climate. Climate [initiatives] are a way to create jobs, create quality, and support human health while also supporting our environment...For companies, their climate data needs to reach the same level of quality as their financial data."

Thank you Salesforce for sponsoring this event.

CEOs are finding new ways to court and communicate with retail investors

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As trading volume from retail investors continues to grow, public companies are finding it more important than ever to speak directly to this group.

Why it matters: Companies are bypassing middlemen to reach their intended audience and tell their stories directly. 

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Report: Net-zero emissions targets will have real effects

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Moody's Investors Service report says midcentury "net-zero" emissions targets now common among countries and financial firms will have tangible effects on polluting industries.

Why it matters: Yes, that seems obvious! But these efforts are heavy on aspiration and often lack teeth, though some countries are putting targets into law.

"The spate of targets and the push on climate risk disclosure is "expected to raise credit risk and reduce the availability, and increase the cost, of capital for carbon-intensive activities," Moody's says.