The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the world is in a race against time. The human race has only 30 years to cut global carbon emissions to net zero if we are to limit global warming to 1.5˚C and mitigate potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Business is not only a critical player in achieving the net zero goal; it is also at risk from the physical effects of the climate crisis and the economic impacts of transitioning to a net zero economy.

That’s why companies are under pressure to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks and explain their strategies to ensure resilience and competitive advantage in a net zero world.

The importance of climate risk disclosure has been driven by the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and growing momentum towards mandatory disclosure in many jurisdictions.

This study proposes a set of quality criteria for climate-related disclosure (see Page 6) and analyzes how the world’s 250 largest companies (as defined in the Fortune 500 list 2019)2 measure up against these criteria.

The results enable any company to assess its own reporting against the performance of this global leadership group.

This report is the latest in KPMG’s long established series of sustainability reporting surveys and intended primarily to help corporate reporting, investor relations and sustainability professionals shape their own company’s reporting. It may also help investors, lenders, insurers, asset managers and ratings agencies to understand current reporting maturity and the gaps where improvement is needed.

As Head of KPMG IMPACT, a new KPMG initiative to bring the best of KPMG together to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, I am deeply proud of this work and hope you find it insightful.

Richard Threlfall
Global Head of KPMG IMPACT Global Head of Infrastructure, KPMG International Limited
Partner, KPMG in the UK

  

When looking at this Executive Summary, it would be easy to conclude that the world’s largest companies are underperforming when it comes to reporting their climate risks and decarbonization activities. The G250 report card is dominated by Cs and Ds, showing us that less than half of these companies currently satisfy the bulk of KPMG’s quality criteria for good reporting. Yet we, as KPMG professionals, prefer to take a more positive ‘glass half full’ view of these research findings.

It is important to view this data in its context. Corporate disclosure of climate-related risks, as we currently understand it, simply did not exist 5 years ago. It was at the UN Climate Conference of 2015 (known as COP21 and which spawned the Paris Agreement) that Mark Carney, then Chair of the Financial Stability Board and Michael Bloomberg launched the TCFD. The reason they did so was precisely because they saw the lack of corporate disclosure of climate-related risk as a threat, not only to individual investors, lenders and insurers, but also to the stability of the global financial system in its entirety.

When we consider this, we can see how swift and significant the progress has been. Less than 5 years later, more than half of the G250 publicly acknowledge climate change as a financial risk. Almost half have assigned board level responsibility for the company’s response to climate change. As noted in the previous section, these rates are considerably higher in some countries and industry sectors.

Similarly, the concept of net zero emissions is new to the mainstream political and business worlds. It first appeared in the text of the Paris Agreement of 2015, although the Agreement’s deadline for achieving global net zero emissions was vaguely expressed as “in the second half of this century.” It is only very recently that 2050 has begun to emerge as a widely adopted target date. In 2019, the UK, France, Denmark and New Zealand enshrined achievement of net zero by 2050 into national law. A net zero target at or around the same year is now either in law or on its way to becoming law in approximately 20 countries and territories.

In this context, it is remarkable that one in five of the world’s largest 250 companies already has a net zero emissions target in place. In some locations, such as Germany and Japan, the rates are even higher.

So, while there is much yet to be done and we must always guard against complacency, there is cause for some celebration and optimism. Even though performance is patchy, rapid progress over the last few years is clearly evident. It is our hope that this report, by providing insight into the current state of play, may help to close some of the gaps and contribute to further progress.

Adrian King
Co-Chair, ESG & Sustainability Services, KPMG IMPACT
Partner, KPMG in Australia

  

Scenario analysis is one of the key recommendations of the TCFD. Financial stakeholders need forward-looking information to help them understand what may be coming down the line for their portfolios in terms of climate-related risks and opportunities.

Yet, detailed, longer term, forward-looking reporting has not been the norm for companies that have traditionally provided retrospective information along with short-term earnings forecasts.

Adopting a sophisticated forward-looking view on reporting of climate risk is, therefore, a significant culture shift for many companies, most of which likely lack in-depth subject matter expertise on their teams. This is a steep learning curve that companies need to climb quickly.

Jennifer Shulman
Co-Chair, Impact Measurement, Reporting & Assurance Services, KPMG IMPACT
Partner, KPMG in Canada

  

This KPMG survey of climate risk and net zero reporting reveals remarkable progress by some of the world’s largest companies in only a few years.

It is important to remember that it can take a large company 2 years or more to prepare before it is ready to publicly disclose its climate risk information. The process can be time consuming and complex, especially for companies doing it for the first time. So, the organizations that are already making public disclosures can be considered true global leaders. Recognizing that climate risk disclosure would likely become not only standard practice but ultimately a mandatory requirement for businesses, they started the journey early. They should be applauded for that, even if most disclosures are not yet complete and do not satisfy all the quality criteria set out in this report.

Through the work that KPMG firms are doing with clients, we can see further progress taking place behind the scenes. Corporate experience is growing and innovation, new ways of analyzing climate risks and improved data are emerging.

We are confident that more and deeper disclosures are on the way and that we will see a rapid ratcheting-up of both the volume and quality of information being disclosed.

Wim Bartels
Co-Chair, Impact Measurement, Reporting & Assurance Services, KPMG IMPACT
Partner, KPMG in Netherlands