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Green Finances: How IFRS Accounting Standards Are Forcing Companies to Become Sustainable

Rodolfo Salazar

When it comes to today’s corporate issues, sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria have become increasingly important. Companies are increasingly focused on integrating sustainable and ethical practices into their operations, recognizing that this not only benefits the environment and society, but also strengthens their position in the marketplace. This trend has been discussed previously on the blog, highlighting how ESG criteria are redefining the business world.

Alongside this growing attention to sustainability, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have emerged as a very relevant element in the transformation of business practices. These standards, adopted globally, establish an accounting framework that guides the presentation of financial statements and ensures transparency and comparability among companies at an international level. Their impact is significant, influencing not only how companies report their financials, but also how they integrate ESG principles into their strategies and operations.

IFRS, in their constant evolution, have begun to incorporate elements of sustainability and social responsibility, reflecting the growing demand from stakeholders for greater transparency in these aspects. The relevance of IFRS in the general financial and corporate context is undeniable, as these standards establish the basis for consistent and responsible accounting, paving the way for companies to comply not only with financial obligations, but also with their commitment to sustainable and ethical business management.

The implementation of ESG policies and metrics has gone from being a niche practice to a widespread corporate priority. With its multiple benefits, ESG represents a strategic opportunity for companies to operate more sustainably while meeting the changing expectations of investors, regulators, partners, employees and consumers.

This shift in IFRS towards greater inclusion of ESG criteria is a step forward in promoting "green accounting". It reflects a deeper understanding that a company’s financial health is intrinsically linked to its sustainability and social responsibility performance. With this evolution, IFRS compels companies to adopt greener and more ethical practices, ensuring that sustainability is an integral part of their financial narrative.

IFRS accounting standards require companies to disclose material ESG factors in their financial reporting. This ensures that investors and other stakeholders have a clear view of how ESG issues impact the company’s financial performance and position.
Specifically, IFRS requires disclosure of:

- Significant climate-related risks: companies must disclose the current and expected impacts of climate change on their business if these represent significant risks. This includes transient impacts arising from the move to a low-carbon economy, as well as physical impacts of climate change.

- Environmental fines, penalties and remediation costs: Any material liabilities, provisions or contingencies resulting from environmental regulations or damages should be adequately recorded and disclosed.

- Employee and social issues: Issues such as employee turnover, succession planning, diversity, union relations and more may require disclosure if they are financially significant.

- Anti-corruption and bribery issues: Companies should disclose any legal proceedings or material fines related to bribery, corruption or other ethical violations.

- Board and management diversity: The composition of a company’s board and management in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and other indicators of diversity may warrant disclosure.

The integration of ESG disclosures into financial reporting, as required by International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), represents a substantial advance in the way companies communicate their performance and strategies. 

This ESG disclosure process, beyond mere regulatory compliance, offers multiple benefits ranging from improving transparency to strengthening corporate commitment to sustainability issues.

A key benefit of these disclosures is increased transparency for investors and other stakeholders. By providing clear and detailed information on material risks and opportunities related to ESG issues, companies enable investors to make more informed decisions. This is especially important in a market where awareness of the environmental and social impacts of investments is on the rise.

Furthermore, by including ESG data in their reports, companies not only show their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, but also establish a framework for assessing and comparing their performance in these areas over time and relative to their competitors. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and enables companies to identify areas of strength and opportunities for development.

Another significant benefit of ESG disclosures is improved risk management. By recognizing and reporting on financially significant ESG factors, companies can anticipate and mitigate potential environmental, social and governance risks that could affect their long-term profitability and reputation. This risk anticipation and mitigation not only protects the company, but also safeguards the interests of its shareholders and stakeholders.

Finally, companies that effectively report on their ESG practices are favorably positioned to attract increasing sustainable investment capital. Today’s investors, increasingly aware of the impacts of their investment decisions, tend to favor those companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility. Therefore, good ESG disclosure can be a determining factor in accessing new sources of capital and financing opportunities.

By integrating financially meaningful ESG factors into their financial reporting, following IFRS guidelines, companies not only comply with a regulatory requirement, but also improve their corporate presentation, strengthen their reputation and open up new opportunities for investment and sustainable growth.

The integration of ESG criteria in financial reporting, dictated by IFRS Accounting Standards, is not only a matter of social conscience, but an obligation that will profoundly impact corporate accounting. Organizations must adopt sustainable and ethical practices sooner rather than later, recognizing that this is no longer an option.

Green accounting, guided by IFRS, is defining the new standard, where sustainability and social responsibility become essential components of long-term success and viability. Companies that anticipate this trend and adopt these principles will not only comply with current regulations, but will also position themselves favorably with investors and consumers who are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of their decisions.

Rodolfo Salazar
Partner, BLP Legal


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