Climate Risk Management & FCA Compliance

Posted by

Emmeline de Chazal

on 05 Jun 2024

Climate risk management constantly undergoes regulatory change. So, how do compliance teams keep up and ensure they meet ethical expectations?

Climate Risk Management & FCA Compliance

Climate risk is a substantial area of ongoing regulatory change, so compliance teams will need to collaborate with others to implement new rules, guidance, and standards.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and other regulators are working to ensure financial services firms in the jurisdiction meet both international obligations and the ethical expectations of the domestic electorate.

Climate risk management need-to-knows

What is the FCA's definition of the "E" in ESG?

The FCA, working closely with the Bank of England's Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and the industry through the Climate Risk Forum, has produced a considerable amount of new regulations and guidance around climate risk management over the past two years or so.

Compliance teams need to work with their risk management teams and others across the business to implement this considerable volume of regulatory change.

“Climate change is a core focus of environmental work, which is itself one pillar of ESG. And ESG captures the key dimensions of wider sustainability; that is, how people, planet, prosperity and purpose come together to help enable ‘the needs of the present [to be met] without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’”.

- The FCA

Also, more regulatory change is in the works.

What are Sustainability Disclosure Requirements?

The FCA wants to improve the overall quality of product labelling for climate risk and the environmental space in general. To that end, it published DP21/4: Sustainability Disclosure Requirements and Investment Labels in November 2021.

This set of rules seeks to improve the quality of:

  • sustainable investment labels
  • consumer-facing disclosures for investment products
  • client- and consumer-facing entity- and product-level disclosures by asset managers and FCA-regulated asset owners

    In November 2023, the FCA issued final rules for Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) and investment labels, which apply to asset managers of UK funds (PS23/16). In April 2024, they released guidance for the anti-greenwashing rule applicable to all FCA-authorised firms, following a consultation (GC23/3) to help firms understand and implement this rule.

Additionally, the FCA published a consultation paper (CP24/8) proposing to extend the SDR and labels regime to portfolio management, with the consultation period ending on 14 June 2024.

Once again, compliance teams need a strategy to manage the substantial amount of work required to implement climate risk-related regulatory change.

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What's the UK's climate risk disclosures framework?

One substantial area of the new regulation has to do with climate risk disclosures. The UK has adopted the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework – launched in 2017 – as the basis for developing its rules in this area. The TCFD framework contains 11 recommendations built around four themes:

  1. Governance
  2. Strategy
  3. Risk management
  4. Metrics and targets

    There are TCFD-aligned disclosure requirements for Britain's largest companies and financial services firms today. More than 1,300 of the largest UK-registered corporates and financial firms now must publish climate-related financial information. These companies need to state the following:
  • whether the company has included, in its annual financial report, disclosures consistent with the TCFD recommendations;
  • if disclosures are inconsistent with some or all of the recommended disclosures. Or if disclosures are in documents other than the annual financial report, an explanation of why; and
  • where the disclosures can be found in their annual financial report (or other relevant documents).

    In December 2021, the FCA published its policy statement PS21/24, enhancing climate-related disclosures by asset managers, life insurers, and FCA-regulated pension providers.

This document extended the new disclosure requirements beyond premium-listed companies to most standard-listed public companies, asset managers, life insurers, and pension providers from 1 January 2022.

The FCA shares responsibility for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

Compliance teams will need to perform a gap analysis of these new requirements against the data their firm currently produces and discloses. Then, they will have to work with the business to produce the required information, keeping in mind existing requirements around data disclosure for listed companies and other FCA and FRC requirements.

ESG Compliance Roadmap

What are the required climate risk disclosures?

The disclosure work required for financial firms is substantial and will demand a considerable amount of work from the compliance team. Key disclosure requirements include:

  • a description of the governance approach for assessing and managing climate risks and opportunities
  • an explanation of how the firm identifies, assesses and manages climate risks and opportunities, as well as how these processes integrate into the firm's overall risk management programme
  • a description of the firm's exposure to key climate risks and opportunities
  • a description of actual and potential impacts of the key climate risks and opportunities on the firm's business model and strategy
  • an evaluation of the operational resilience of the firm using a variety of climate-related scenarios
  • a list of the targets used by the firm to manage climate risks and opportunities
  • a summary of the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to determine progress against targets and manage climate risks and opportunities. Firms also need to describe the KPI calculations.

    Compliance will have to engage with teams to implement a governance framework to capture and report this data to the board, senior management and regulators.

This is also an opportunity for compliance teams to embed the "E" in ESG within their corporate culture. These requirements can then translate into genuinely ethical operations and deliver reputational value. Full disclosure and supportive training can help drive the right ethical behaviours.

Compliance Red Flags

What are the regulatory changes around climate?

In addition to the disclosure requirements above, financial firms will need to enhance their risk management programmes to take climate-related risks onboard.

The FCA published Supervisory Statement SS3/19 – Enhancing banks' and insurers' approaches to managing the financial risks from climate change in 2019 to help firms develop their framework.

In addition, the Climate Risk Forum has published extensive guidance on topics such as climate risk appetites, climate risk training, and managing legal risk. The authors of these materials are four working groups on climate risk that convene under the auspices of the FCA and the PRA.

The Bank of England is also conducting a series of exploratory scenario exercises on climate risk involving the largest UK banks and insurers. These exercises use scenarios to try to better understand how different kinds of climate risks will impact these areas of the financial services industry.

Compliance teams should partner with the risk management teams in both the first and second lines of defence to meet these obligations, continually improve their firm's climate risk management programme, and meet climate risk management-related regulatory obligations.

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What's the impact on asset management?

The FCA fosters active investor stewardship among asset management firms, including insurers and pension funds. This way, the companies they invest in are influenced to implement sustainability strategies.

So, compliance teams should train their firms' asset managers in this more proactive approach and support those teams in documenting these activities.

There are more disclosures, too. In addition to the TCFD-related disclosures that these asset management firms will need to make, they will also need to undertake product- and portfolio-level disclosures.

The PS21/24 states: Enhancing climate-related disclosures by asset managers, life insurers and FCA-regulated pension providers, published in December 2021.

This fundamental set of consistent, comparable product—and portfolio-level disclosures includes metrics designed to meet users' needs across the investment value chain. These disclosures need to be included in regular reporting or on the firm's website.

Firms needed to make the first public disclosures, according to these rules, by 30 June 2023. Compliance teams will need to support the business in creating this data and then disclosing it to meet this regulatory obligation – and pre-existing ones around information disclosure.

What's the FCA's angle on climate risk data quality?

Although high quality and comparable climate-related data and consistent metrics are essential for the financial markets to price and manage climate-related risks properly, today's reality is that the data is often a metaphorical Tower of Babel both within firms and among them.

To help combat this, the Climate Financial Risk Forum published the Climate Financial Risk Forum Guide 2023 – Climate Disclosures  Dashboard. The report provides an overview of the state-of-play of climate risk metrics at the time, noting the recognition of data gaps in the industry. It also provides some suggested solutions.

Climate risk data is a work in progress today. So firms need to be sure they understand the quality and use of their data at a granular level and that they are aware of any issues around the use of the data or its comparability.

Compliance should collaborate with other business teams, including data governance, risk management, IT, and investor relations, to address climate risk data issues internally. Given the overall challenges highlighted in the report, they should also be alert to potential legal risks associated with using and publishing data.

Greenwashing Prevention Tips

How does the FCA aim to combat greenwashing?

The FCA has publicly stated that it is actively looking for evidence of greenwashing among the financial services firms it regulates. The regulator uses its existing rules around misleading communications and treating customers fairly to punish firms.

Asset management firms should read the regulator's open letter to AFM chairs, Authorised ESG & Sustainable Investment Funds: improving quality and clarity, for guidance.

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is also cracking down on financial firms for greenwashing. For example, in April 2022, newspapers reported that the ASA was preparing to sanction a large UK-based multinational bank for ads that selectively promoted green initiatives because the ads did not accurately reflect the broader context of the bank's climate risk activities.

Compliance teams should enhance their marketing review processes to consider climate risk regulatory issues. This is likely to be a space where best practice evolves as regulators sanction firms.

Compliance Challenges 2024In short, compliance teams face an enormous amount of regulatory change today and over the next couple of years around climate risk-related requirements. These changes will require the development of new data and metrics, new climate risk management strategies, and fresh approaches to product governance and marketing compliance.

These are just a few areas touched by this enormous FCA project. The core of this is having a robust approach to training across the organisation – from helping individuals understand the nature of new rules and how they impact their role to enhancing its overall ethical approach to climate risk issues.

Risk Management Training Presentation

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