Profit or Planet?

The Controversial Crossroads of Modern ESG Disclosures

In a world increasingly conscious of sustainability and ethical business practices, companies are navigating a sea of new regulations affecting ESG disclosures, supply chain accountability, and data privacy. These regulatory shifts are not just bureaucratic hurdles but catalysts for profound change, compelling businesses to realign their strategies with sustainable and responsible practices, pushing companies towards greater transparency, accountability, and ethical practices. Let’s delve into how these regulations are affecting ESG disclosures, supply chain accountability, and data privacy.

Is ESG Disclosures the New Age of Transparency?

ESG disclosure regulations, driven by stakeholders’ growing awareness of sustainability’s role in business viability, are intensifying the push for transparency in ESG practices

The EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) exemplifies this trend, requiring financial market participants to disclose the sustainability risks and impacts of their investment decisions. The SFDR aims to channel capital towards more sustainable businesses, reflecting a broader shift in investment priorities. According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, sustainable investment assets hit $35.3 trillion in 2020, representing 36% of total managed assets in major markets—a testament to the mounting demand for sustainable investment options.

The EU also launched the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD which aims to improve the quality and scope of corporate sustainability reporting. It expands on the previous Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) by covering more companies and providing more detailed reporting requirements. CSRD) is a critical piece of the puzzle in ESG disclosures. The CSRD significantly enhances the non-financial reporting framework within the EU, aiming to provide stakeholders with a detailed and reliable view of companies’ sustainability performances. It extends the reporting requirements to all large companies and all companies listed on regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises), impacting nearly 50,000 companies in the EU.

The directive mandates these companies to report on sustainability issues, including environmental rights, social impact, risk & opportunities, and employee matters, thereby ensuring a comprehensive insight into their ESG performance. This development marks a substantial shift toward more consistent, comparable, and detailed sustainability reporting across the EU, aiming to foster transparency, curb greenwashing, social washing and facilitate sustainable investment decisions.

Integrating the CSRD into the ESG disclosure landscape is essential, as it underscores the move towards more standardised and rigorous sustainability reporting, aligning corporate accountability with the broader goals of environmental and social governance. It’s worth noting that while both the CSRD and SFDR are part of the EU’s broader strategy to integrate sustainable practices into the financial and corporate sectors, the CSRD focuses on the sustainability reporting of companies, and the SFDR targets the transparency of sustainability information in the financial sector.

In the UK, the landscape for ESG disclosures is rapidly evolving, with significant regulatory changes designed to enhance transparency and accountability. The UK has introduced the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) aligned regulations, requiring publicly quoted companies, large private companies, and LLPs to disclose climate-related financial information.

This initiative aims to provide a clear view of how businesses are affected by climate change and how they are managing these risks. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also proposed extending these rules to asset managers and life insurers, demonstrating a broad commitment to integrating climate risks into financial reporting. These developments signify a major shift towards comprehensive and standardised ESG reporting, aiming to foster a culture of sustainability and responsible investment within the UK’s financial ecosystem.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed rules to enhance climate-related disclosures by public companies. As climate change increasingly influences market dynamics, such regulatory measures underscore the critical need for businesses to disclose their environmental impacts comprehensively.  This move signifies a growing acknowledgment of the financial materiality of climate risks and the need for standardised reporting to inform investment decisions. The SEC’s proposed rules aim to create a framework where companies are required to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, climate-related risks, and actions taken to mitigate these risks. This seeks to provide investors with consistent, comparable, and reliable information, enabling them to consider climate-related risks in their investment decisions.

Beyond climate disclosures, there are discussions and developments around broader ESG disclosure frameworks. For instance, the SEC is considering rules that would require disclosures related to governance practices, such as board diversity and executive compensation, reflecting the ‘G’ in ESG. Additionally, social issues, including labour practices, human rights, and community relations, are gaining attention, highlighting the ‘S’ aspect of ESG.

There is also a growing call for a comprehensive ESG reporting standard in the US, similar to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards, which are widely used internationally. These standards aim to provide a consistent methodology for reporting sustainability information, covering a broad spectrum of ESG topics. This is moving closer with the current work being done by the Impact Management Project. Legislative developments are also hinting at a future where ESG disclosures could become more regulated. For example, the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, proposed in US Congress, seeks to mandate detailed climate risk disclosure for companies, indicating a shift towards more comprehensive and standardized ESG reporting in the near future.

The Expanding Scope of Supply Chain Accountability

Global supply chains are under increasing scrutiny, with new laws requiring companies to ensure ethical and sustainable practices across their operations. The German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act, for instance, compels companies to monitor their supply chains for human rights and environmental risks, enforcing accountability beyond immediate suppliers. Similarly, the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act, bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless firms can prove items were made without forced labour.

These regulations signify a growing consensus that companies must bear responsibility for their entire supply chain. The repercussions of non-compliance extend beyond legal penalties, as failing to uphold ethical standards can lead to severe reputational damage in an era where consumers and investors increasingly prioritise corporate responsibility.

The intricate link between supply chain management and the new ESG disclosure regulations is becoming increasingly prominent, as these regulations compel companies to provide a transparent account of their environmental and social impacts across their entire supply chain. The essence of ESG disclosures extends beyond the company’s immediate operations to encompass the full spectrum of its supply chain, highlighting the interdependence of corporate activities and their wider social and environmental ramifications.

Under new ESG disclosure regulations, companies are required to report not only on their direct operations but also on how their supply chains contribute to their overall ESG performance. For instance, the EU’s CSRD mandates companies to disclose information on their supply chains’ adherence to human rights, environmental standards, and anti-corruption practices. This requirement underscores the importance of sustainable supply chain management, as it directly impacts the ESG ratings and perceptions of the company.

Similarly, in the United States, although ESG reporting standards are still evolving, there is a clear trend towards greater transparency in supply chain practices. The SEC’s consideration of enhanced reporting on human capital management, for example, indirectly touches on supply chain issues, as companies must consider labour practices not just within their own operations but also among their suppliers.

The link between supply chains and ESG disclosures is also evident in sector specific regulations. For instance, the mining and extractive industries face stringent reporting requirements on their supply chains’ environmental impact and the sourcing of conflict minerals. These requirements highlight the necessity for companies in these sectors to ensure ethical, sustainable, and transparent supply chain practices.

The global push towards carbon neutrality and reduced environmental impact has made the tracking and reporting of supply chain emissions a critical aspect of ESG disclosures. Companies are increasingly expected to report on Scope 3 emissions, which include indirect emissions from activities such as purchased goods and services, transportation and distribution, and waste generated in their supply chain.

These new ESG disclosure regulations necessitate a more comprehensive view of a company’s impact, encompassing the entire supply chain. This shift not only promotes transparency and accountability but also encourages companies to adopt more sustainable and ethical business practices across their entire supply networks, ultimately contributing to broader societal and environmental objectives.

Data Privacy and Securing Trust in the Digital Age

Data privacy has emerged as a pivotal concern, with regulations like the GDPR setting stringent standards for data protection and user consent. These laws reflect a broader recognition of privacy as a fundamental right, demanding that companies safeguard personal information and grant individuals’ greater control over their data.

The interplay between data privacy and ESG is gaining prominence, as privacy breaches and unethical data practices can severely tarnish a company’s social standing and erode stakeholder trust. In this context, robust data privacy mechanisms are not just legal requirements but critical elements of corporate responsibility and ethical governance.

 The new ESG disclosure regulations increasingly recognise data privacy and security as integral aspects of a company’s social responsibilities, reflecting the interconnectedness of data management practices and sustainable business operations. The link between supply chain management and data privacy under new ESG disclosure regulations is multifaceted. Firstly, as companies are required to disclose more detailed information about their supply chains, they must handle a significant amount of sensitive data, including supplier details, contractual agreements, and information on labour practices. This necessitates robust data privacy measures to protect this sensitive information from unauthorised access or breaches, aligning with the broader ESG goal of responsible and ethical business practices.

Furthermore, data privacy regulations, such as the EU’s GDPR, impose stringent requirements on data handling and protection, necessitating transparency and accountability in how companies collect, use, and share data. These requirements extend to supply chain operations, where companies must ensure their suppliers and partners also comply with data protection standards, highlighting the role of data privacy in responsible supply chain management.

The integration of data privacy into ESG disclosures also reflects the growing recognition of cyber risks as significant business risks that can have far reaching impacts on a company’s reputation, stakeholder trust, and financial stability. In this context, companies must demonstrate their commitment to data privacy and security throughout their supply chain, not only as a compliance measure but also as a critical component of their ESG strategy.

With the increasing digitisation of business operations, companies are leveraging technologies like blockchain and IoT (Internet of Things) to enhance transparency and efficiency. While these technologies offer numerous benefits, they also raise new challenges for data privacy and security, underscoring the need for companies to adopt comprehensive data governance frameworks that align with ESG principles.  As companies navigate these complexities, they must ensure that their data privacy practices are robust, transparent, and aligned with their overall ESG commitments, thereby reinforcing their dedication to responsible and ethical business practices.

ESG Regulations and the Move Beyond Borders

The new regulations, such as the CSRD and SFDR in the EU, have implications for companies that trade in these regions, even if they are not headquartered or have a physical presence in the EU. The extraterritorial reach of these regulations means that non-EU companies engaged in business activities within the EU may also be subject to these rules, depending on the nature and scope of their operations. Here is how these regulations can affect such companies:

  • Market Access and Compliance: Non-EU companies trading in regions where new sustainability regulations are enacted must comply with these rules to access or maintain their market position. This compliance could involve disclosing certain ESG-related information, aligning their sustainability practices with the regulatory standards, or undergoing additional scrutiny and reporting to satisfy local regulatory requirements.
  • Supply Chain and Due Diligence: Companies might need to conduct thorough due diligence on their supply chains to ensure compliance with regulations like the EU’s supply chain laws (German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act), which demand responsible business practices not only from entities within the EU but also from their global suppliers.
  • Investor and Consumer Expectations: Non-EU companies operating in regions with stringent ESG regulations may face increased expectations from investors and consumers who are accustomed to the high level of transparency and sustainability performance mandated by local laws. This shift can influence investment decisions, consumer preferences, and overall market competitiveness.
  • Financial Implications: Compliance with new regulations such as SFDR and CSRD may require significant investment in data collection, reporting infrastructure, and sustainability initiatives. Companies not based in the region but operating within it may need to allocate resources to meet these regulatory demands, impacting their financial planning and operations.
  • Reputational Risk: Non-compliance or failure to adequately address the requirements of these new regulations can lead to reputational damage, affecting a company’s brand image and stakeholder relationships, even if the company is not based in the region where the regulations apply.

Companies must be prepared to navigate the complexities of compliance to sustain their operations, reputation, and competitive edge in this market.

For companies trading or doing business in the US and UK without a physical office in these locations, the implications of local regulations can still be significant. Here’s how regulations in these countries might affect such companies:

In the US, the regulatory environment is evolving, particularly in areas of sustainability, data privacy, and corporate governance. For example:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Regulations: Non-US companies listed on US stock exchanges must comply with SEC regulations, including those related to financial disclosures and, increasingly, ESG disclosures. The SEC is moving towards more stringent ESG reporting requirements, meaning foreign companies would need to disclose more comprehensive ESG-related information.
  • Data Privacy Laws: With no federal data privacy law akin to the GDPR, the US has state-specific laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Foreign companies doing business in these states must comply with these laws, which require businesses to manage and protect personal data responsibly.
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): This act applies globally to companies with US operations or those listed on US stock exchanges, enforcing anti-bribery and corruption practices. Foreign companies engaging with US entities must adhere to these regulations to avoid legal and financial penalties.

Post-Brexit, the UK is establishing its regulatory framework, including areas of ESG and data protection:

  • UK ESG Reporting: The UK’s set of ESG reporting requirements, is influenced by, but distinct from, the EU’s regulations. Non-UK companies operating or raising capital in the UK market need to comply with these reporting standards, focusing on transparency in sustainability practices.
  • UK Data Protection: The UK’s Data Protection Act 2018, incorporating the GDPR into national law, affects any company processing the personal data of UK residents. Non-UK businesses dealing with UK customers or employees must comply with these regulations, ensuring data protection and privacy.
  • Supply Chain Due Diligence: The UK’s Modern Slavery Act requires companies to disclose efforts to eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their operations and supply chains. This applies to all companies operating in the UK, regardless of their country of origin, that meet specific criteria regarding turnover and business activity.

For companies without a physical presence but conducting business in the EU, US or UK, understanding and complying with the local regulations is crucial. Non-compliance can result in legal challenges, financial penalties, and reputational damage. Moreover, adherence to these regulations is not just about legal compliance; it’s increasingly viewed as a component of corporate integrity and social responsibility, influencing investor decisions and consumer trust.

Urgent Actions for Companies

As the landscape of ESG disclosures evolves, companies face an urgent imperative to adapt and align their practices with the emerging regulatory standards. The advent of new regulations in regions like the EU, UK, and US, addressing aspects from supply chain transparency to data privacy, social value and environmental impact, necessitates a proactive and strategic response. Companies must not only comply with these regulations but also integrate them into their core business strategy to ensure sustainability and resilience in a rapidly changing corporate environment. Companies need to take critical actions urgently to stay ahead in the ESG arena, mitigate risks, and capitalise on the opportunities presented by this new regulatory paradigm.

To navigate this evolving regulatory landscape, here are somethings companies can do to take decisive actions:

  • Enhanced ESG Reporting: Develop comprehensive ESG reporting mechanisms that not only meet regulatory requirements but also communicate genuine sustainability efforts to stakeholders.
  • Supply Chain Transparency: Implement advanced traceability solutions to ensure visibility and accountability across the entire supply chain, from raw materials to finished products.
  • Data Privacy and Security: Invest in robust data protection measures, including encryption, access controls, and regular audits, to safeguard personal information and maintain consumer trust.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Foster ongoing dialogue with investors, customers, and communities to understand their expectations and integrate their insights into business strategies.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation: Establish mechanisms for regular monitoring of regulatory changes and adapt business practices accordingly to stay ahead of compliance requirements.

As regulations around ESG disclosures evolve, companies must proactively adapt to these changes. By doing so, they can not only mitigate risks but also seize new opportunities, driving innovation and sustainable growth in a rapidly changing business environment. This shifting sands of ESG disclosure regulations are reshaping the business landscape, compelling companies to undertake a more transparent, accountable, and sustainable approach to their operations. As regulations such as the CSRD, SFDR, and evolving standards in the US and UK come into force, businesses are tasked with not only navigating these new requirements but also embedding them into the fabric of their strategic and operational frameworks.

The imperative for companies to act is underscored by the growing scrutiny from stakeholders such as investors, consumers, employees, and regulators alike, who demand greater transparency and responsibility in corporate actions, particularly in areas like supply chain management and social impact. The integration of ESG considerations into the core business strategy is no longer optional but a critical driver of long-term success and resilience.

For companies to thrive in this new era, proactive engagement with ESG regulations, a commitment to comprehensive disclosure, and a genuine integration of sustainability principles into their business models are essential. This journey, while challenging, presents an opportunity for businesses to lead with purpose, innovate and contribute positively to the global quest for a more sustainable and equitable future. Thus, embracing these changes is not just about regulatory compliance but about seizing the opportunity to redefine corporate success and living the ethos of “Being Good is Better for Business”.

Lumorus stands at the forefront of guiding companies through the complexities of the evolving ESG landscape, offering expert advice and practical solutions to take decisive action. With deep expertise in corporate governance, sustainability, and responsible business practices, Lumorus is well-equipped to help your businesses navigate the intricate web of new ESG disclosure regulations, supply chain accountability, and social impact requirements. By partnering with Lumorus, companies will gain access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, ensuring they not only comply with the latest regulations but also integrate these practices into their core strategy, driving profitability and societal change. Lumorus’s approach, grounded in partnership and forward-looking governance, empowers companies to become leaders in sustainability, transforming challenges into opportunities for innovation and growth, thereby achieving their performance goals and contributing to a sustainable future.



European Union. (2021). Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

European Union. (2019). Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR).

Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. (2020). Global Sustainable Investment Review 2020.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (2021). Proposed Rule: Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors.

UK Government. (2021). Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): UK Requirements.

European Commission. (2016). General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2021). German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2021). Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

State of California Department of Justice. (2018). California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

National Congress of Brazil. (2018). General Data Protection Law (LGPD).



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