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SEC Launches New Webpage on ESG, Climate Change Issues

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What You Need to Know

  • The new page is a response to investor demand for information, according to the SEC.
  • It includes information on myriad agency initiatives on ESG issues, including climate change.
  • Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee has emphasized ESG matters.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a new page on its website that brings together the latest agency initiatives on environmental, social and governance issues, including climate change.

The agency says the launch responds to increased investor demand for information on these topics, which it will update regularly on the site.

“Our all-of-SEC approach looks at how climate and ESG intersect with our broader regulatory framework to get investors the information they need to plan for their financial future,” said SEC acting Chair Allison Herren Lee, in a statement.

Included on the site are the SEC’s request for comment on whether current disclosures by public companies on climate issues are adequate and how they can be improved, its plan for the Division of Corporation Finance to review 2010 guidance on disclosure requirements related to climate change and the agency’s 2021 examinations priorities, which include a greater focus on climate-related risks.

Along with those items are the announcement of a new task force focusing on climate and ESG issues and a bulletin from the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy explaining what ESG funds are for investors and how those strategies could affect their portfolios.

The SEC under acting chair Lee, named by President Joe Biden, has been much more concerned with ESG issues than the agency was under former Chairman Jay Clayton, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump and left in late December before Lee was appointed acting chair. Commissioner Elad Roisman served as acting chair in the interim.

Lee’s concern, however, is not shared by Roisman and Commissioner Hester Peirce, who were appointed by Trump and who have criticized in public comments the agency’s initiatives on ESG and climate issues as vague and lacking standards.

How the SEC ultimately decides to change its regulations on ESG and climate-related issues will depend largely on the positions that Gary Gensler, the expected incoming chairman, takes. Gensler’s nomination as SEC chairman was approved by the Senate Banking Committee by a vote of 14 to 10 on March 10 but has yet to be scheduled for a full vote in the Senate.

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