CT officials urge companies to do better on climate change

Gisela Steep

Companies across the U.S. say that they are committed to doing their part to tackle climate change. But their pledges do not go far enough for many elected officials and environmental advocates. Reflecting the growing pressure on corporations, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and nearly a dozen of his counterparts […]

Companies across the U.S. say that they are committed to doing their part to tackle climate change. But their pledges do not go far enough for many elected officials and environmental advocates.

Reflecting the growing pressure on corporations, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and nearly a dozen of his counterparts sent a letter this week to the Securities and Exchange Commission that called on the financial regulator to require companies to do more to respond to climate change. They argue that the country faces an environmental and economic emergency, with others such as U.S. Rep. Jim Himes supporting their efforts.

“The SEC is about protecting investors, and the way they protect investors is by demanding companies disclose material information,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. “Climate change is material to just about everything… This isn’t liberal wish-listing. This is something that’s going to touch the viability of every business on the planet.”

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

“We ignore the climate crisis at our own peril. Climate change is already costing us billions of dollars and unchecked will touch every aspect of our lives, including our financial systems,” Tong said in a statement this week. “Our coalition is calling on the SEC to enact common sense requirements for U.S. companies to report and disclose how much financial risk they face because of climate change. This is a crucial step to protect Connecticut investors and shield our financial institutions from the devastating consequences of climate change. Full transparency around climate risks will strengthen our economy’s resilience.”

In their joint letter to the SEC, Tong and 11 other state attorneys general asked the SEC to mandate that companies, both public and private, assess climate change-related risks affecting their businesses and disclose that information to investors. They asserted that the SEC’s current disclosure requirements were insufficient.

“Requiring companies to disclose climate-related information is entirely consistent with the SEC’s practice, since its inception nearly 90 years ago,” the letter said. “From the creation of the SEC with the passage of the Exchange Act in 1934, one of the Commission’s major purposes has been to ensure that investors receive material, accurate, adequate information for their investment decisions. Mandatory climate-related disclosures are the next step in pursuing that goal.”

“There are some of the view that you actually can’t invest in ways in that are beneficial to society and generate good returns. I have just the opposite philosophy,” said Connecticut Treasurer Shawn Wooden. “The reason we are so committed to ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance goals) is because we believe that that is how we are going to maximize returns in the future, while managing risk.”

Contributed /

The SEC did not respond to an inquiry from Hearst Connecticut Media about its response to the letter.

Tong joined the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin in signing the letter. All of them are Democrats, including Tong, who was elected in 2018 to his first term as attorney general.

The majority of U.S. companies do not make any climate change-related disclosures, and the disclosures that they do make are “often boilerplate, suggesting that the companies are not thoroughly evaluating or disclosing their exposure to climate change-related risks,” according to Tong’s announcement of his signing the letter.

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