Sustainability and compliance: What you need to know

March 2, 2024

Sustainability and compliance: What you need to know

In today's increasingly interconnected world, businesses of course face a myriad of challenges. I am not here to throw another one in the mix but there could quite possibly be mandatory reporting requirements related to sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors that you have to think about. Compliance might merely be seen as a legal obligation, the reality is far more complex. Not only can non-compliance lead to legal repercussions, but it can also pose significant risks to a company's reputation, competitiveness, and long-term viability. In this blog, I'll delve into the mandatory reporting requirements for businesses, the associated risks, and the actions you can take to integrate

compliance into your Sustainability Action Plans.

Understanding Mandatory Reporting Requirements

Various regulations worldwide compel businesses to disclose their environmental, social, and governance practices. These requirements aim to promote transparency, accountability, and sustainability across industries. Some notable regulations include:

UK Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR): Mandates certain UK companies to report on their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, fostering energy efficiency and carbon reduction efforts.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): Provides a framework for organizations to report their sustainability performance, covering economic, environmental, and social dimensions. This is more of a gold standard for reporting.

EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and European Single Electronic Reporting Format (ESEF): Proposed regulations seeking to enhance corporate transparency and align reporting standards across the EU. Some in place already for corporates. They are casting the net wider to a broader section of companies.

US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Regulations: In the US, the SEC requires public companies to disclose material ESG risks and opportunities that could impact their financial performance.

California's Bills SP253 and SP261: These bills propose mandatory reporting requirements for ultra large California-based businesses, focusing on climate-related financial risks and greenhouse gas emissions. You might think why would these bills impact you - well the ultra large companies include household names such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet etc.. if you are in their supply chain then you might be in some way have to report as part of their process.

Assessing Risks and Impacts

Non-compliance with mandatory reporting requirements carries significant risks for businesses. These risks extend beyond legal penalties and encompass:

Reputational Damage: Failure to report or inaccurate reporting can damage your reputation, leading to loss of trust among stakeholders, including customers, investors, and partners.

Financial Consequences: Fines, litigation costs, and potential loss of business opportunities can have adverse financial implications for non-compliant companies.

Competitive Disadvantage: If you fail to adapt to evolving reporting standards may find yourselves at a competitive disadvantage compared to compliant peers, affecting market positioning and investor appeal.

Supply Chain Disruption: Non-compliance within the supply chain can disrupt operations, leading to delays, increased costs, and strained relationships with your suppliers and customers.

Integrating Compliance into Sustainability Action Plans

To mitigate risks and demonstrate commitment to sustainability, you should take proactive measures to integrate compliance into your Sustainability Action Plans:

Stay Informed: Regularly monitor regulatory developments and updates to ensure awareness of evolving reporting requirements and standards.

Conduct Impact Assessments: Assess the potential impact of reporting requirements on business operations, supply chain management, and stakeholder relations.

Invest in Data Management Systems: Implement robust data management systems to collect, analyse, and report relevant ESG data accurately and efficiently. See my previous blog on carbon accounting software.

Engage Stakeholders: Foster open communication and collaboration with stakeholders, including investors, customers, employees, and regulators, to address concerns and demonstrate transparency.

Embed Sustainability into Business Strategy: Integrate sustainability considerations into strategic decision-making processes, aligning corporate goals with ESG objectives and reporting requirements.

Continuous Improvement: Continuously evaluate and enhance sustainability practices, leveraging feedback, performance metrics, and industry best practices to drive ongoing improvement.


Mandatory reporting requirements play a crucial role in promoting transparency, accountability, and sustainability. While compliance may seem like a legal obligation, the associated risks highlight the importance of proactive engagement and strategic planning. By integrating compliance into your Sustainability Action Plans, you can not only mitigate risks but also unlock opportunities for innovation, growth, and long-term value creation in an increasingly sustainability-focused marketplace.

For most businesses - due to the very nature of their size and operational reach will find there is only a very small amount they need to do to ensure compliance. Executives generally should not be losing too much sleep on this topic.