EU:s taxonomi sätter normerna för vad som räknas som "grönt". Den är utformad för att vägleda företag, investerare och beslutsfattare mot att uppfylla EU:s gröna mål. Om ditt företag hävdar eller siktar på att hävda att det är engagerat i miljövänliga metoder, måste det uppfylla de standarder som fastställs av taxonomin och avslöja relevant information för att visa efterlevnad. För att ge dig en snabb överblick hur den påverkar ditt företag har vi bett vår medlem, den affärsjuridiska advokatbyrån RosholmDell, att sammanfatta det viktiga för dig att veta om taxonomin.
What is the European Green Deal and the EU Taxonomy? The Green Deal refers to a set of policy initiatives by the Commission with the primary aim of making the European Union (EU) climate neutral by 2050. The Green Deal encompasses various important initiatives but here we will focus on the EU Taxonomy. The EU’s new Taxonomy Regulation is designed to support the transformation of the EU economy to meet the Green Deal objectives. So, what exactly is it, and what implications do it have for companies? Let's break it down.
The EU Taxonomy in brief
The EU Taxonomy is a classification system that entered into force on 12 July 2020. The system is outlined in an EU regulation and delegated acts. It provides a framework for determining what can be considering an environmentally sustainable economic activity. It's like a rulebook for going green. The Taxonomy sets the standards for what counts as “green”. It is designed to guide companies, investors and policymakers towards meeting the EU's green goals. If your company claims or aims to claim that it is engaged in environmentally friendly practices, it must meet the standards set by the taxonomy and disclose relevant information to demonstrate compliance.
Application and scope
The EU Taxonomy affects a wide range of companies across various sectors. Below, we break down who's affected:
Companies affected by CSRD: Companies subject to the reporting requirements of the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSDR) are covered by a provision in the Taxonomy Regulation, which mandates the companies to disclose how their economic activities align with the requirements outlined in the regulation.
The CSRD, which is a revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), prescribes rules for organizations to report sustainability disclosures. The reporting is and will be required across several topics relating to environmental and social matters. Companies will be required to disclose information about their identified risks and opportunities related to social and environmental questions and on how their business activities affect both people and the environment.
CSRD will apply to all large European companies and EU subsidiaries of non-EU parent companies that exceeds at least two of the following criteria:
i) More than 250 employees.
ii) A turnover of EUR 40 million, or
iii) Total assets of EUR 20 million.
The CSRD will also apply to listed companies, excluding micro enterprises - companies with less than 10 employees or below EUR 20 million in turnover. Moreover, sustainability reporting will also be required of non-European companies that generate an annual net turnover of EUR 150 million in the EU and that have at least one subsidiary or branch within the EU.
This means that approximately 50,000 companies are expected to participate in CSRD’s reporting requirements once it is completely rolled out. (Please see below for more information on the timeline.)
Financial Market Participants: This includes asset managers, insurance companies, pension funds, and others offering financial products in the EU. They are required to disclose how the sustainability of their products aligns with the EU Taxonomy.
Banks and Lenders: Banks and other lenders may use the EU Taxonomy to assess the environmental sustainability of their loans and investments. This could affect companies seeking financing, as their sustainability practices may impact their eligibility for certain loans or investment funds.
Companies Outside the EU: Non-EU companies are not directly subject to the EU Taxonomy. However, if they have business relationships with EU-based companies, they may be indirectly affected. For example, they may need to align their practices with the EU Taxonomy to maintain business relationships. Further, and as mentioned above, if they operate within the EU, sustainability reporting according to the CSRD will be required of non-European companies that generate an annual net turnover of EUR 150 million in the EU and that have at least one subsidiary or branch in the EU.
Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): While SMEs are not directly required to comply with the EU Taxonomy, they may be indirectly affected. For instance, if they are suppliers or partners to larger companies that need to comply, they may be asked to provide information about their own sustainability practices and activities.
Lastly, changing stakeholder expectations and the social interest in sustainability speak in favor of a voluntary report on the Taxonomy Regulation, even if the company is not yet affected by the taxonomy. Companies with a high proportion of taxonomy-compliant activities can then benefit from better financing conditions, as well as gain access to public funding and investment programs.
The objectives at glance
The primary objective of the EU Taxonomy is to channel future capital flows towards “green” investments in order to create sustainable and inclusive growth. The EU Taxonomy is a standardized and transparent classification system that enables investors to directly compare companies with regard to their sustainability performance and to direct their financial resources to green companies. In this context, the taxonomy does not represent a commitment to sustainable investments or economic activities, but primarily serves to identify “green” activities. Exactly which activities contribute to the restructuring of the economy and thus count as “green” is determined by the six climate and environmental targets defined by the EU:
1. Climate change mitigation
2. Adaptation to climate change
3. Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
4. Transition to a circular economy
5. Pollution prevention and control; and
6. Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems
Whether or not an economic activity is considered sustainable is based on a set of technical evaluation criteria, which set performance thresholds to be achieved for each activity and environmental objective. However, it is not sufficient for the company to reach the thresholds for its economic activities, as defined by the technical evaluation criteria. In addition, it must not compromise any of the other environmental objectives, the so-called “Do No Significant Harm” (DNSH). Lastly, it must also be operated in compliance with the minimum requirements of international conventions regarding human rights (e.g. OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights).
What is considered a sustainable economic activity and the requirements for it is stated in the EU Taxonomy, some examples being activities related to renewable energy, water management, reducing waste generation, reducing pollution and usage of forest and forest land that contributes to enhancing biodiversity or to halting or preventing degradation of ecosystems. On 2 February 2022, the Complementary Climate Delegated Act was published by the Commission. The Act incorporates certain nuclear and gas activities into the list of economic activities considered sustainable according to the Taxonomy.
What content to disclose?
Companies must include, in their non-financial statement, information on how and to what extent its activities are associated with economic activities that qualify as environmentally sustainable. The taxonomy regulations require companies to disclosure the share of “green” sales revenues, capital expenditures (CapEx) and operating expenditures (OpEx) for every individual taxonomy-compliant economic activity.
What challenges do companies face?
The taxonomy requires a link between sustainability reporting and financial reporting. The number of datapoints and the required level of detail of the indicators make the disclosure process complex. The required data is often not available to companies by a push of a button. Internal processes, IT systems and control mechanisms will therefore have to be adapted to meet the new requirements.
Another effort that should not be underestimated is the evaluation of taxonomy conformity. Within the framework of the EU taxonomy, all those activities that have been identified as taxonomy-relevant must be checked for taxonomy conformity. The conformity assessment is based on a set of technical requirements, the “Do No Significant Harm” criteria, and minimum social protection requirements together. In particular, the procedure and scope for testing the minimum social requirements are currently still subject to considerable implementation uncertainties.
When do these regulations come into force?
Non-financial, listed companies governed by the NFRD with more than 500 employees
Report what proportion of their operations are aligned with the taxonomy. Additionally, financial market actors must also report on the percentage of their financial products and activities that are in accordance with the taxonomy. The reporting applies for 2021.
Large listed companies
Report eligibility and alignment for the previous calendar year, i.e. 2022.
Financial marketing actors
Report eligibility and alignment for the previous calendar year, i.e. 2023.
All large companies with > 250 employees
Effective from 2026, in accordance the CSRD, all non-financial entities with a personnel count exceeding 250 are obliged to disclose the proportion of their business activities that fall under and conform to the stipulated taxonomy.
SMEs will report according to a simplified CSRD and taxonomy standard.
If you want help to navigate the above-mentioned uncertainties and challenges RosholmDell has a team of specialists that can help your company with interpretation and application issues related to the EU Taxonomy and ensure consistent understanding and implementation of the rules. They can also provide training to enhance your understanding of the EU Taxonomy.