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5 key roles needed to comply with SEC, EU and California climate disclosure regulations

The shifting regulatory and legislative landscape will require companies to prioritize specialized positions.

Magnifying glass on CO2 reduction symbol, surrounded by other sustainability icons

Source: Shutterstock/earth phakphum

New regulation in the U.S. and abroad has ushered in a wave of new roles around carbon reporting and disclosures. Originally, the driver was the much anticipated Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) climate disclosure rule. However, given the recent stay on the SEC rule, additional regulatory drivers remain such as the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and California SB 253, which also faces legal challenges.

Sustainability executives are putting considerable resources into meeting the anticipated — or in the case of California, already enacted — regulatory requirements. Those resources include technology tools and headcount to support gathering  and inputting the data and then putting controls in place to substantiate claims.

As a recruiter, I’m seeing a number of new roles being created, too. Here are five roles companies should be focusing on in preparation for the new regulations. 

1. ESG controller

The ESG controller is responsible for setting up systems to integrate and analyze ESG data, including associated financial implications, conducting risk assessments, setting targets and monitoring progress. The emerging role is gaining attention and was featured in "The Rise of the ESG Controller" panel discussion at GreenBiz 24. 

"The ESG controller role reflects a more rigorous approach to monitoring and disclosing performance," said Velislava Ivanova, Americas chief sustainability officer and climate change and sustainability services leader at EY. "Bringing together competencies across sustainability management, accounting and assurance, this role will be crucial for embedding a new approach to climate accounting in compliance with the SEC rules."

2. In-house sustainability counsel (legal and compliance)

Many companies will need specialized legal expertise to navigate complex international disclosure requirements.

"Companies, especially multinationals, are balancing growing ESG enforcement and litigation risks, ever-expanding shareholder demands and an increasingly complex global landscape of disclosure requirements," said Alexandra Farmer, partner, ESG & Impact, Kirkland & Ellis. "This often requires legal and compliance teams to develop more in-depth substantive knowledge of ESG and sustainability. As a result, many companies are determining that they need a dedicated, often senior, legal or compliance professional to manage these issues."

3. Sustainability reporting director

Gone are the days when sustainability reporting could be an additional task for the communications team; increasingly, it requires a dedicated role with expertise in ESG reporting and a focus on coordination across the business.

Valerie Lee, CEO at BuzzWord, part of Anthesis, explained: "The new requirements are raising the bar for the quality and rigor of sustainability disclosure. Companies need leaders to guide their disclosure strategy and drive the reporting process with the expertise and influence to bring together the right people internally to make informed decisions." 

4. ESG data manager

Filling ESG data gaps might require a dedicated role such as an ESG data manager, who is responsible for building tools and integrating software, data management and analysis.

"We’re having a steady increase in discussions with finance, legal, technology/information teams about data management and quality. The phrase ‘data lake’ is commonly used and since we work in carbon accounting, new roles like the ESG data manager are becoming more common titles," said Mike Wallace, chief decarbonization officer at Persefoni AI. "These roles involve working closely with technology and data and will become even more important as regulation and AI evolve."

5. Climate scientist

Companies will need to disclose their climate strategy, and the preparation for this involves gap analysis, materiality assessment, strategy and goal setting — all of which require subject matter expertise.

Lucas Joppa, chief sustainability officer and senior managing director at Haveli Investments, explained the importance of having a climate expert on board: "Climate change is complex, and to set a strategy that tackles this issue meaningfully, companies need in-house expertise. A climate scientist helps direct the broader strategy and monitoring, ultimately boosting business success."

Conclusion

We’re likely to see variations depending on the needs of individual companies, as these roles work both independently or as part of an integrated solution. As companies prepare for regulatory and legislative action on climate disclosure, they will uncover gaps, not only in their data and disclosure but also in their in-house expertise and capabilities.

This is where a recruiter can offer support: Their understanding of both emerging roles and the company's needs can help ensure you have the right personnel in place.

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