Group presses for climate-change disclosure

Jun 30, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

By Sara Hansard

More than 3,000 people signed letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission, calling on the commission to require public companies to increase disclosure of risks regarding climate change, according to a Washington-based social action group.

The letters are part of a campaign by the Co-op America Foundation Inc. to seek interpretive guidance from the SEC on the issue. A sample letter posted on the foundation’s website says that “corporate disclosure on climate risk by companies is inconsistent and many companies are failing to disclosure their risks.”

Investors will likely be adversely affected by corporate losses that are tied to climate change impacts, the letter says.

Since SEC rules require companies to disclose in SEC filings risks that could affect their sales or revenues, they should also have to disclose the regulatory, physical and litigation risks they face from climate change, the letter says.

“Corporations play a major role in creating climate change and will also be deeply affected by its devastating impacts,” Co-op America said in a press release.

“Right now most companies are hiding their current and future risks regarding climate change from their investors and the public,” the non-profit group says.

Last September public pension funds and state treasurers from 11 states asked the SEC for guidance on corporate disclosures about climate change.

“The SEC is committed to robust disclosure by companies of material environmental issues,” SEC spokesman John Nester wrote in an e-mail.

“The key requirement for triggering disclosure is that the impact or potential impact will be material to a company and is therefore material to investors,” he wrote.

Mr. Nester declined to comment on Co-op America's request for additional rulemaking on environmental disclosures.

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