Policy and Legal

Policy and Legal

Previewing the SEC’s Climate Rule

For the past two years, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been considering a rule that would require businesses to report huge amounts of information about companies’ climate-related risks, strategies and impacts. As the SEC prepares to release its final version of the rule this Wednesday, we spoke with NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain about what manufacturers should expect.

The background: In March 2022, the SEC proposed what the NAM has called an overreaching, unworkable and burdensome climate disclosure rule. According to Crain, the initial proposal would have required extensive disclosures as well as invasive tracking procedures to gauge climate impact and emissions throughout companies’ supply chains—significantly increasing costs and liability for manufacturers.

  • “The proposal would have had major implications for the entire manufacturing sector, including both large and small public companies—and even privately held businesses throughout manufacturing supply chains,” said Crain. “As proposed, the rule represents a significant threat to manufacturing competitiveness.”

The pushback: In the two years since the rule was first proposed, the NAM has pressed for significant changes—in detailed letters to the SEC, in congressional testimony and in meetings with SEC commissioners and staff.

  • “Manufacturers have made it a top priority over the past two years to convince the SEC that they need to change their approach,” said Crain. “The NAM has spent significant time and effort explaining to the SEC why its proposal was unworkable and likely unlawful and illustrating the impact of the rule’s overwhelming cost burden on manufacturers.”
  • “But we also offered specific and actionable suggestions to help the agency tailor the rule, make it more workable to manufacturers and bring it back within the SEC’s statutory authority.”

The preview: With the SEC set to publish its final rule tomorrow, Crain says the NAM is keeping an eye on key inflection points, including the following:

  • Scope 3 emissions reporting: The proposal’s Scope 3 mandate would require public companies to disclose the emissions of their supply chain partners—including small and family-owned businesses. If Scope 3 is curtailed or absent, that would represent significant progress for manufacturers.
  • Financial statement reporting requirements: The NAM will be tracking the degree to which companies are required to incorporate climate information into their financial statements. The NAM called the proposal’s approach to financial statement reporting “unworkable [and] highly burdensome.”
  • Materiality: The SEC is only allowed by law to require “material” disclosures—i.e., financial information that allows investors to make informed decisions. Mandates in the final rule that require immaterial disclosures or seek to redefine materiality could exceed the SEC’s legal authority.
  • Implementation: The NAM will consider when and how the rule takes effect, and whether the SEC has provided scaled requirements for smaller companies or tailored implementation plans for certain provisions within the rule.
  • Small-business impact: The proposal would have harmed small and privately held businesses disproportionately. The SEC must do a better job at protecting these companies in the final rule.

The expectation: Crain says the NAM’s advocacy appears to have made a difference.

  • “Recent news reports suggested that some provisions in the rule may have been modified in alignment with the NAM’s suggested changes,” said Crain. “But it remains to be seen whether the final rule, taken as a whole, is actually workable for manufacturers.”

The next step: The NAM’s next moves will depend on the specifics of the final rule—but the conversation is unlikely to end there.

  • “The NAM has been clear that a failure to bring the rule back within the agency’s statutory authority could invite legal action. On the other hand, a balanced, workable rule could obviate the need for litigation,” said Crain.
  • “Regardless of the exact content of the rule, the NAM is committed to providing resources to our members to help companies understand and comply with any new requirements. We will also continue to engage with the SEC and Congress to address any implementation issues, seek guidance on any unclear provisions and, if necessary, push for changes to the final rule.”
  • “As we have for the past two years, the NAM will continue to advocate on manufacturers’ behalf.” 
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