Même si la comptabilité extra-financière restera toujours imparfaite et source de fraudes, elle contribue à changer les mentalités

Deontofi.com publie principalement des articles en Français, mais Gilles Pouzin écrit aussi régulièrement des articles en anglais pour divers médias, comme cela a été le cas notamment durant 20 ans pour Investment & Pensions Europe.

Le projet de publication auquel était destiné cet article n’ayant pas vu le jour, son sujet peut néanmoins intéresser des lecteurs anglophones (traduction et autres commandes d’articles sur demande auprès de l’auteur).

Une comptabilité extra-financière pour doper l’économie bas carbone

Since the 2015 Paris agreement, world leaders have multiplied commitments to fight global warming, with the goal to prevent the earth’s average temperature from rising more than 2°, and preferably no more than 1.5°, compared to pre-industrial levels. This apparently simple but nevertheless ambitious goal, became a real intelectual, logistical and political challenge when trying to make it more than a wishfull thinking, rather a path to concrete steps of action. How could we reach such a goal ? Capping temperatures rise requires to reduce GHG emissions, implying to rething our economic model relying on fossil fuel energies, and foster the world energy transition. Governments are announcing huge investment plans to help their countries get along with this transition. Many countries, including the US since Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump, have announced their willing to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Many countries’ budget orientations push will help in that direction, like the recent $2trn infrastructure investment package announced in the US, or the €1trn EU Green New Deal announced by the European commission late 2019.

The energy transition has also been endorsed by the financial world, as critics rose on its responsibility to allocate more fundings to reduce GHG. New regulations and incentives to reduce GHG grew as part of a broader effort to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance investment criterias (ESG) in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The French Energy transition law for green growth (LTCEV) adopted in 2015 created the first obligation for institutional investors and asset managers to disclose how they integrate sustainability risks in their investment policies. The Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) adopted by the EU in 2019, which entered into force in March 2021 set comparable rules at the European level. The financial and investing world multiplied institutions to support this new extra-financial approach of the world, as many wanted to weight on the debates it opens. Which investments really help reducing GHG and global warming ? How can we measure and compare the environmental impact of an investment ? A company ? A loan or project financing ?

The Sustainable finance taxonomy regulation adopted by the EU in June 2020 established a framework to facilitate sustainable investment, defining the contribution of 138 economic activities considered as mitigating climate change or adaptating to it. Many of these regulations “can only work if investors have access to high quality sustainability data from the companies they invest in”, claims the European commission to complete its regulatory arsenal against global warming.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), adopted by the European commission in April 2021 should help. It enhances the previous Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) adopted in 2014, extending previous reporting requirements to all European listed companies or large private companie (>250 employees and €20m balance sheet or €40m revenues), representing more than 50,000 companies in Europe.

These changes have their believers and critics. Is this more than greenwashing ? Is it only fuss or has it a chance to change the world ? The underlying meaning of this shift is an inner mutation of financial capitalism toward a more sustainable eco-capitalism.

Without understanding all its consequences, our world is slowly shifting from a monetary accounting to a transition accounting, where companies ratings and valuations will integrate more and more ecological criterias. This new accounting will face the same hurdles and bias as traditional financial accounting, or even more, as the way to measure ESG criterias is still subject to debate, and might stay so for long, given its subjetivity. In financial accounting, a dollar is a dollar, while in sustainability accounting, GHG emissions measurement can be tricky, as car makers know.

There will be “greenwashing” and even green reporting frauds, just as the world has lived with creative accounting, from “window-dressing” to blunt fraud. It will take decades before the world political and business leaders agree on broad and more comparable eco-accounting standards, just like it took decades to build the US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and the International Accounting Standards adopted by many other countries, before their convergence through the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) replacing IAS since 2001. But in the end, all this might end-up changing the world, by changing the capitalism mindset from within : financial greed could be mitigated, or partly conditioned, to a dose of energy transition greed, a sustainable gluttony of low-carbon economics.

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