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Sustainability professionals sapped by reporting regulation rollercoaster

UK sustainability professionals are suffering from “legislation lethargy”, according to a new survey.

The Opinium research involving 500 sustainability decision makers found reporting regulations, ESG reporting mandates and the expectation of “total transparency” around net-zero targets are all creating challenges.

For example, more than half (55%) of those surveyed in February said current sustainability reporting requirements are too complex, while more than a third (38%) admitted they are not clear on what they should be reporting on. 

Pressure from investors has also increased: almost half (46%) of the decision makers are currently reporting to three or more different ESG frameworks.

Government standards like the carbon reduction plan (CRP) and energy saving opportunity scheme (ESOS) are the most reported to frameworks (29% and 24% of respondents respectively). However, there are emerging standards to deal with too: 17% said they planned to report to both the recently-introduced International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD).

The risks of coming up short are also playing on people’s minds. Some 60% of those quizzed in the survey for Mitie are concerned that their reputation would be impacted, while 59% are also worried about the impact that insufficient reporting might have on their company finances – including facing fines, falling profits and potential loss of shareholders.

One in five (20%) said the prospect of facing greenwashing accusations keeps them awake at night. “Reporting requirements have intensified in recent years and the legislation labyrinth is here to stay,” said Catherine Wheatley, head of data science and energy services at Mitie. “For sustainability leaders this means grappling with multiple reporting frameworks, stricter multi-jurisdictional regulation, and the intense scrutiny of stakeholders who expect to see reduction targets and their progress in the public domain.”

Despite the complexities associated with reporting, 34% of respondents acknowledged that compliance with new ESG regulations has positively influenced their sustainability strategy.

However, just 13% said they believe the current approach to reporting works. More than half (58%) said one international framework for reporting is not the solution. Very few are in favour of sector-specific frameworks, a UK-wide standard or a UK and EU-wide standard. The expectation is that regulations will become stricter going forward. 

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