New proposal would require large companies to disclose environmental and social information in their annual reports

The European Commission presented a proposal to amend the existing accounting legislation in order to improve the transparency of certain large companies on social and environmental matters. According to the proposal, large companies with more than 500 employees would be required to disclose relevant and material environmental and social information in their annual reports.

The European Commission presented a proposal to enhance business transparency on social and environmental matters of large companies. Companies concerned will need to disclose information on policies, risks and results as regards environmental matters, social and employee-related aspects, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery issues, and diversity on the boards of directors. In September 2011, experts already debated how to shape EU economic policy under corporate social responsibility principles.

The Commission highlighted that the approach taken ensures administrative burdens are kept to a minimum. If reporting in a specific area is not relevant for a company, it would not be obliged to report but only to explain why this is the case. Furthermore, disclosures may be provided at group level, rather than by each individual company within a group.

On the other hand, large listed companies would be required to provide information on their diversity policy, covering age, gender, geographical diversity, and educational and professional background. Disclosures would set out the objectives of the policy, how it has been implemented, and results. Companies which do not have a diversity policy would have to explain why not. This approach is in line with the general EU corporate governance framework.