Katharina Grimme
Katharina Grimme (Associate VP, Research and Practice Lead, EMEA Sustainable Strategies and Technologies)

In Europe, the primary driver for corporate sustainability initiatives is the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). It came into force in January 2023 at EU level and must be transposed into national law in all EU countries within 18 months (by mid-2024).

The EU CSRD aims to improve transparency and accountability around corporate sustainability performance. It also aims to accelerate the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into corporate business practices to support the transition to a more sustainable, inclusive economy.

From 2025, those companies already subject to the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) — around 10,000 in Europe — will have to report on a variety of sustainability indicators for their FY24. In the following years, the CSRD will be widened to cover around 50,000 companies — all those listed on EU regulated markets with more than 250 employees, more than €40 million in revenues and/or more than €20 million in total assets. The directive also covers non-EU companies with operations in the EU.


Download eBook: Sustainability in EMEA: Opportunities for Tech Vendors, Challenges for Tech Buyers


The key differences to previous laws are:

  • The introduction of standardised, mandatory sustainability metrics on companies’ policies, risks, impacts and outcomes relating to ESG issues
  • The mandate to consider double materiality, i.e., identifying all potential negative and positive impacts on people and environment connected with a company’s own operations and its value chain
  • The requirement that reported information is audited
  • The requirement that reported information is digitally tagged to feed into a European single access point

Non-compliance can lead to sanctions and financial penalties, but also reputational damage.

Our recent surveys have revealed that most companies are in the very early stages of being able to meet these requirements. The measurement of value chain sustainability performance (including Scope 3 emissions and product life-cycle assessments) is very complex and requires the creation of new KPIs and respective data architectures that enable continuous data collection and analysis, real-time monitoring, automated performance reporting, and data assurance.


Register for the webcast: Sustainability in EMEA: The Challenge of Moving from Ambition to Action


Will CSRD Legislation Lead to the Same Last-Minute Rush and Soar in Penalties as with GDPR?

Remember when the GDPR came into effect in May 2018? Shortly before, there was a great rush as organisations prepared for compliance. Why? Because of the threat of severe penalties. And penalties were imposed: since its launch, hundreds of millions of euros of fines have been handed out by data protection authorities around Europe. In 2019, those fines totalled €73 million, rising to €172 million in 2020 and €1.3 billion in 2021 (source: enforcementtracker.com).

As with GDPR, CSRD legislation replaces older laws with new, stricter and better enforced legislation. While they are EU directives, both GDPR and CSRD have “extraterritoriality” enforcement, meaning regulators can fine organisations anywhere in the world if they have operations in the EU and do not comply.

The risks of not being prepared for CSRD are significant. If member states implement similar penalties or sanctions as for financial reporting legislation, organisations could face legal sanctions (imprisonment or disqualification of company directors), public reprimands or penalties, depending on the country-specific enaction.

Non-compliance could also result in reputational damage, loss of stakeholder confidence, allegations of greenwashing and legal action from non-governmental entities such as climate activists.

And it’s not just the CSRD. The EU is also working on a Supply Chain Due Diligence Directive that aims to mitigate the adverse impact of governance, environmental and human rights risks in the value chain of companies selling products within the EU. Many national governing bodies are implementing or tightening mandatory carbon emission and other sustainability regulations.

Investing now in efforts to prepare data collection, analysis and reporting capabilities will keep an organisation ahead of the curve as CSRD and other new sustainability regulations are put in place.

Reporting compliance and impacts on risk management are one thing. Forward-looking companies are going further and are acting on the metrics. They are developing disruptive strategies and road maps for sustainable business transformation that redesigns end-to-end value chains and breaks up traditional industry models.

Circular (instead of linear) economy approaches are emerging, innovation is sustainability driven and products and services are becoming “sustainable by design”. Those approaches — not yet widely seen — are the basis for future-proof organisations that will have a much lower risk profile, greater resilience and long-term strategic growth potential. And they won’t have to fear sustainability regulations.


Related Research

2023 Key Sustainability Trends and Developments in EMEA

Sustainability and ESG Readiness Among European Organizations

Other Resources

IDC Survey Finds Organizations Turning Toward ESG Software Solutions and Independent ESG Program Management

The Need for Harmonised ESG Reporting for Financial Entities

Spread the love