Droughts in California, epic cold weather in Georgia, the polar vortex over the Midwest and the East Coast—how is this bad news relevant to your public company disclosure obligations? Of course I’m talking about the impact of climate change on your company's business. Whether your company chooses to give its shareholders climate change disclosure isn't a partisan question; the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has publicly stated that it thinks, for some businesses, the impact of climate change is material to investors. This makes the impact of climate change relevant public company disclosure. The plaintiffs’ bar, no doubt, agrees.
There has been a mini-storm on the topic of public company climate change disclosure just recently. The dust-up was sparked by the publication of a study undertaken by Lawrence Taylor, a private citizen and retired database developer. Taylor's study involved the systematic examination of the annual reports (10-K's) of 3,895 U.S. public companies. Taylor was looking for climate change disclosure. To his credit, Taylor did not just look for statements that would evince the acceptance of climate change as a reality. He included in his analysis any mention at all of climate change. Taylor found that only 27 percent of companies mentioned climate change.