Smoke rises above a factory at sunset in Rugby
Smoke rises above a factory at sunset in Rugby, Britain February 10, 2021.

Some of Britain's top listed companies could be downplaying risks from climate change on their bottom line and could face "appropriate action", regulators said on Friday.

Trillions of dollars have flowed into stocks and bonds of companies which tout their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials, leaving regulators worried about "greenwashing" or companies flattering their green profile to attract investments.

Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange's premium market have been required since 2021 to make climate-related disclosures to investors in line with the global Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) - or to explain why they have not.

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates listings, and audit watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published reviews on Friday of how companies have applied TCFD so far.

The FRC said it found companies were providing many of the TCFD disclosures, marking a significant improvement on previous years, but more was needed to be done.

Britain was the first major economy to make TCFD disclosures mandatory, and the FCA said it also found a significant increase in the quantity and quality of disclosures.

"However, it also found instances where companies said that they had made disclosures consistent with the TCFD's recommended disclosures when it appeared they had not," the regulators said in a joint statement.

"We are considering these cases in more detail and may take action as appropriate."

As a first step, regulators are likely to ask some companies why some disclosures were missing or too vague, or why they were stressing opportunities from climate change but giving little detail on risks to the business.

If companies deliberately mislead investors that would be a breach of conduct rules and could result in fines in future, people with knowledge of the matter say.

"We also encourage companies to look ahead to the future implementation of reporting standards in development by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)," said Sacha Sadan, the FCA's director of ESG.

Britain is expected to switch from using TCFD disclosures to those now being written by the ISSB.

The establishment of the ISSB was announced last year to develop a global baseline of sustainability disclosures for financial markets.

The FCA said it expects to consult on migrating from TCFD to ISSB standards, and whether it would be appropriate to make disclosures mandatory by going beyond the current "comply or explain" system.

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