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  • David Jenkins

Navigating the New EU Corporate Social Reporting Directive (CSRD): Challenges for Organizations with Weak Risk Management and Governance Structures


The European Union's Corporate Social Reporting Directive (CSRD) marks a significant shift in the regulatory landscape, aiming to enhance corporate transparency and accountability concerning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. The directive, which came into effect in Jan 2021, extends the scope of non-financial reporting requirements, impacting a broader range of companies, including those that previously did not fall under such stringent scrutiny. As importantly it has significant implications for companies outside the EU who, while not having direct EU statutory reporting requirements, might be unaware they could still be indirectly required to provide data and governance evidence to those who do have reporting obligations.

For organizations with weak risk management and governance structures, the CSRD presents both a formidable challenge and a vital opportunity for improvement.


Key Requirements of the EU CSRD

Material Risk and Double Materiality

One of the cornerstone principles of the CSRD is the concept of double materiality. This means companies must consider not only how sustainability issues affect their financial performance (outside-in perspective) but also how their operations impact society and the environment (inside-out perspective). For organizations with underdeveloped risk management frameworks, this dual perspective requires a significant overhaul in how risks are identified, assessed, and reported.

Practical Example: A manufacturing company must evaluate not only the financial risks posed by potential regulatory changes related to carbon emissions but also how its production processes contribute to climate change and the associated societal costs. This comprehensive assessment necessitates robust data collection and analysis mechanisms, which many organizations may find challenging without strong existing governance structures.


Governance Requirements

The CSRD places a strong emphasis on governance, mandating that companies disclose detailed information about their governance structures, including the roles and responsibilities of the board and executive management in overseeing sustainability-related risks and opportunities. This requirement aims to ensure that sustainability is embedded in the corporate governance framework and that accountability is clearly defined.

Practical Example: A company must provide insights into how the board integrates ESG considerations into decision-making processes, including the establishment of specific committees or roles dedicated to sustainability oversight. For companies with weak governance frameworks, this might involve significant restructuring and capacity-building efforts.


'Faithful Representation'

The CSRD contains very specific wording which requires data provided is an accurate representation of the facts as known to the organisation:

"To be useful, the information must not only represent relevant phenomena, it must also faithfully represent the substance of the phenomena that it purports to represent. Faithful representation requires information to be (i) complete, (ii) neutral and (iii) accurate."


"For example, accuracy requires that:

a) factual information is free from material error;

b) descriptions are precise;

c) estimates, approximations and forecasts are clearly identified as such;

d) no material errors have been made in selecting and applying an appropriate process for developing an estimate, approximation or forecast, and the inputs to that process are reasonable and supportable;

e) assertions are reasonable and based on information of sufficient quality and quantity; and

f) information about judgements about the future faithfully reflects both those judgements and the information on which they are based."

Practical Example: If a company claims a reduction in its carbon emissions, it must provide concrete evidence such as energy consumption records, emission factors, and third-party verification reports. This approach ensures all reported information is backed by reliable data, reducing the risk of greenwashing and enhancing stakeholder trust.


Scope 3 Emission Requirements

Scope 3 emissions, which include all indirect emissions occurring in the value chain of the reporting company (e.g., supplier emissions, product use emissions), represent a critical but complex component of the CSRD. Accurately measuring and reporting these emissions requires extensive coordination with suppliers and other stakeholders, posing a substantial challenge for organizations with limited experience in sustainability reporting.

Practical Example: A retail company must account for the carbon footprint of the products it sells, from raw material extraction to disposal. This necessitates collaboration across the entire supply chain, demanding rigorous data collection, verification, and reporting protocols, which might be daunting for organizations with insufficient risk management and governance systems.


Data, Statistics, and Case Studies

A study by the European Commission estimates that the CSRD will affect approximately 50,000 companies across the EU, a significant increase from the 11,700 companies currently subject to the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). Furthermore, companies with robust ESG practices have shown to outperform their peers financially. For instance, a 2020 study by BlackRock found that 81% of sustainable indices outperformed their parent benchmarks during the first quarter of that year, highlighting the financial benefits of strong ESG practices.

Case Study: Consider the example of a mid-sized European manufacturer that proactively adopted the CSRD principles. By integrating double materiality into their risk management framework, they identified significant energy efficiency opportunities in their production process, leading to a 15% reduction in energy costs and a corresponding decrease in carbon emissions. This not only improved their sustainability profile but also delivered tangible financial benefits.



The EU Corporate Social Reporting Directive represents a paradigm shift in corporate transparency and accountability, posing both challenges and opportunities for organizations, particularly those with weak risk management and governance structures. By understanding and addressing the CSRD's requirements on material risk, double materiality, governance, and Scope 3 emissions, companies can not only comply with regulatory mandates but also unlock significant strategic advantages.

The debate around climate change and ESG has become highly politicised in the US this last few years. On top of that the US is largely a compliance driven industry not a risk-based one and many of those providing material Scope 3 services into organizations with reporting obligations under the EU CSRD are simply not prepared to respond when required by their clients. Those that get ready will have a leg up on their competitors.

For senior leaders, the imperative is clear: invest in strengthening governance and risk management frameworks to ensure comprehensive, accurate, and meaningful sustainability reporting. This proactive approach will mitigate compliance risks, strengthen client relationships, provide competitive advantage and enhance long-term value creation.

Further Reading and Action Items

Note that, largely due to the partisan backlash in the US around the term ESG and climate change cynicism, Larry Fink and Blackrock changed their language around ESG to now be more about energy transition. However, the underlying premise companies which strategically position themselves to address ESG risks are better investment opportunities than those which do not has not fundametally changed.

  • Workshops and Webinars on CSRD Compliance: Consider attending industry-specific workshops and webinars to gain deeper insights into the practical implementation of the CSRD requirements.

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