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The impact of mandatory ESG reporting on engineering businesses

The introduction of mandatory ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting is set to have significant implications for engineering businesses. Keith Davidson, Environment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell discuss how the upcoming ESG developments, starting in 2024, will fundamentally change the business landscape for engineering companies.

Recent and expected ESG developments

Although the term ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) has been commonly used since 2004, it has not been a priority issue for most SMEs. 

ESG is used as a measure of socially responsible investing and for the last two decades ESG has primarily concerned international financial market participants such as investment funds, banks, insurers, pension funds, and listed companies. 

Significant changes are on the horizon. 

The business landscape is set to undergo a transformation in the coming years due to three key developments:

  • The introduction of the first-ever internationally comparable accounting standards for accounting periods beginning in January 2024, so companies worldwide will be judged according to their ESG performance.
  • Mandatory ESG reporting has been introduced for large companies in the EU from 2024 and the rules will gradually extend to non-EU enterprises that do business in the EU.
  • Increased legal obligations to manage supply chain ESG performance, specifically addressing Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from upstream and downstream value chains.

New global standards for sustainability and climate-related disclosures

On 26 June 2023, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) launched two international disclosure standards that become effective for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2024: IFRS S1 General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information and IFRS S2 Climate-related Disclosures. IFRS S2 requires the reporting of Scope 3 GHG emissions. 

It is up to each country to endorse IFRS standards. The UK is currently consulting on the creation of UK Sustainability Disclosure Standards (SDS), which will address this matter. A decision is expected by July 2024. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has launched in December 2023 a call for evidence to help inform the government’s decision on whether to endorse the ISSB's standards in the UK.

Increased mandatory ESG reporting under the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) 

Since 2015, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) required reporting of certain non-financial and diversity information by very large public-interest entities in the EU with more than 500 employees.

The CSRD entered into force on 5 January 2023 and extends mandatory ESG reporting for a much broader group of companies and includes non-EU companies that do business in the EU. 

The CSRD is being implemented in phases. 

  • The first phase started in January 2024 and is applicable to listed companies in the EU with over 500 employees already subject to NFRD, with reports due in 2025. 
  • The second phase will start on 1 January 2025 and will be applicable to EU companies with at least two of the three following criteria (a) more than 250 employees, (b) a net turnover of more than 40 million euros and/or (c) a balance sheet of more than 20 million euros, with ESG reports due in 2026 on 2025 data. 
  • Third country undertakings (including UK companies) with net turnover above 150 million euros in the EU and who have an office or subsidiary in the EU must report in 2019 based on 2018 ESG data. 

CSRD organisations need to report according to new European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) which includes Scope 3 value chain emissions.

Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD)

On 14 December 2023, a consensus was reached between the EU Council and Parliament on the CSDDD, which requires companies to identify and prevent actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental impacts. 

The new due diligence duty extends to large companies’ own operations and their subsidiaries and supply chains. The CSDDD will apply to EU enterprises with over 500 employees and a global annual turnover exceeding 150 million euros and non EU enterprises and parent companies with over 150 million euros generated in the EU. There are lower thresholds (250 employees and 40 million euros) for ‘high impact sectors’ – textiles, clothing, footwear, food manufacture, agriculture, construction and mineral extraction. 

Failure to prevent or end adverse impacts can result in contractual relationships with suppliers being terminated. National supervisory/regulatory bodies will have the authority to impose penalties on companies not complying with due diligence processes with potential fines up to 5% of the company’s global turnover. There is also the risk of civil liabilities and NGOs and trade unions will have five years to bring a claim. 

Although an agreement of the draft text has been reached, there is not yet an agreed date for the application of CSDDD and the final text could still be changed. It is forecasted that CSDDD will enter into force during 2024 and will start to apply to large companies around 2027.

Requirement for doing business

CSRD requires management of Scope 3 value chain GHG emissions and CSDDD will introduce a new due diligence duty to minimise adverse environmental and human rights impact throughout a company’s international supply chain. Larger companies subject to ESG and carbon reporting will request evidence of climate action and ESG performance from its value chain.

Failure to produce ESG policies and strategies could result in SMEs losing key customers and missing out on new business opportunities. It’s no longer a “nice to have”, ESG will become a requirement for doing business. 

Access to finance 

ESG performance is expected to have a substantial impact on access to finance in the future.  Compliance with ESG standards will increasingly be requested and monitored by lenders, investors, competitors, civil society organisations and employees. 

Management systems

To get prepared for CSRD and CSDDD, companies will need to ensure that there are proper governance procedures and processes in place to measure and manage ESG issues. A management system approach will ensure continual improvement. Engineering companies are well placed for this approach as many have already implemented ISO 14001 and ISO 45001.

Due diligence in transactions

There will be increased demand in M&A transactions for ESG desktop searches and audits as part of technical due diligence and the need for ESG and climate clauses in legal documentation.

ESG real estate strategy

A large part of a company’s impact on the environment and the enjoyment of its workforce relates to the quality of its real estate assets. There will be an increased demand for grade A accredited space and Net Zero buildings and every stage of the property’s lifecycle from design, acquisition, occupation and disposal will need to consider sustainability issues. There will be a greater use of green leases and the focus needs to shift from data sharing to collaboration between landlords and tenants in terms of planning and costing of works.

Companies will be judged on ESG pledges

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies were often seen as a polish for corporate reputation. Now that ESG metrics and disclosure standard have been agreed in ESRS and IFRS and ESG performance can be compared between companies, ESG reports will be subject to greater scrutiny and ESG commitments must be put into action.

This article first appeared in the March edition of MTD magazine.


Mandatory ESG reporting

1 January 2024 

In 2025, EU companies must report their emissions and ESG performance for the 2024 financial year if they

  • Have over 500 employees (including EU subsidiaries of a UK parent)
  • Are currently subject to the Non-Financial Reporting Directive.

This report must be completed in line with the European Sustainability Reporting Standards.

1 January 2025 

In 2026, EU companies (including EU subsidiaries of a UK parent) must report on their emissions and ESG performance for the 2025 financial year if they: 

  • Have more than 250 employees, and/or;
  • €40 million in turnover, and/or;
  • €20 million in total assets.
1 January 2026 

SMEs listed on EU-regulated markets will become subject to CSRD in 2026 if they:

  • Have more than 10 employees
  • Have more than €700,000 in net turnover, or more than €350,000 in total assets.

For a transitional period of two years, relevant SMEs will have the option to opt out of the reporting requirements, subject to providing an explanation in the management report.

1 January 2028 


Non-EU undertakings will become subject to CSRD from January 2028 (with reports due in 2029) if: 

  • Their net turnover generated in the EU exceeds €150 million (£132m)
  •  They have a subsidiary or branch in the EU.