Three-quarters of companies don't acknowledge climate risks

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Business as usual won't protect assets from climate risk.

Investors and regulators around the world may be increasingly vocal in their demands for listed firms to report on climate-related risks, but a clear majority of companies remain deaf to their calls.

That is the stark conclusion of a new report from consultancy giant KPMG, which reveals that 72 percent of large and mid-cap companies worldwide do not acknowledge the financial risks of climate change in their annual financial reports. 

The annual KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting shows how the vast majority of firms are yet to engage with the best practice reporting of climate-related risks proposed by the Financial Stability Board's Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).

In response to growing calls from investors and mounting concerns about so-called carbon bubble risk, the TCFD earlier this year recommended that listed firms publicly report on how climate change and the low carbon transition could affect their business. It also advised firms to model a range of scenarios, detailing how variations in the pace of decarbonization could affect business operations and asset valuations.

However, the KMPG survey found that globally nearly 75 percent of companies do not mention climate-related risks in their annual reports and of the minority that do, only 4 percent provide investors with an analysis of the potential business value at risk.

The survey studied annual financial reports and corporate responsibility reports from the top 100 companies by revenue in each of 49 countries and regions, providing a sample of 4,900 companies.

It revealed that engagement with climate-related disclosure varied significantly by region and industry. For example, 88 percent of the top companies in Taiwan, 76 percent in France, 61 percent in South Africa and 53 percent in the U.S. did acknowledge climate-related risks in their financial reports.

Engagement with climate risk is also more pronounced amongst the world's largest 250 companies. "French-based multi-nationals lead with 90 percent acknowledging climate-related risk, followed by majors headquartered in Germany (61 percent) and the U.K. (60 percent)," the report stated.

Retail and oil and gas companies performed particularly strongly, with 67 percent and 65 percent of the largest companies in each sector reporting on climate risks.

However, once again engagement with the best practices proposed by the TCFD and backed by many high profile investors remains limited. The research found only six of the world's 250 largest companies have informed investors of the potential financial impact of climate risk through quantification or scenario modeling.

José Luis Blasco, KPMG's global head of sustainability services, said the results proved considerable work still needed to be done to encourage firms to disclose information on the climate-related risks they face. 

"Our survey shows that, even among the world's largest companies, very few are yet providing investors with adequate indications of value at risk from climate change," he said. "Our findings support the need for initiatives like the Financial Stability Board's Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) that aim to improve corporate disclosure of climate-related risk."

Advocates of climate-related reporting maintain that investors are not being adequately informed about the considerable risks businesses face from climate change. Investors with trillions of dollars under assets repeatedly have warned that all industries are exposed to both physical climate impact risks and risks that could arise from the low carbon transition as demand for carbon-intensive fuels and technologies declines and new markets emerge.

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