In-house lawyers should be aware of several key climate change announcements made during COP26 and of the publication of the Environment Act 2021. In addition, this month there have been noteworthy developments in diversity and inclusion, and corporate governance.
During COP26, several key announcements were made, including confirmation that the UK government would introduce mandatory requirements for certain companies, from 2023, to publish climate transition plans setting out how they will decarbonise in the period to 2050. HM Treasury published Fact Sheet: Net Zero-aligned Financial Centre, which provides guidance on climate transition plans and clarifies that the government is not requiring firms to adopt mandatory net zero targets.
The 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders initiative, a group of businesses founded by Telia Company, Ericsson, BT Group, IKEA and Unilever, launched the free-to-use 1.5°C Supplier Engagement Guide, which contains practical guidance to help businesses reduce their supply chain emissions. The group is committed to halving greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chain by 2030 to help reach net zero by 2050.
Environment Act 2021
On 9 November 2021, the Environment Bill received Royal Assent to become the Environment Act 2021. It establishes a post-Brexit set of statutory environmental principles and an environmental governance structure through an environmental watchdog for England, the Office for Environmental Protection. It also includes waste and resource efficiency provisions to allow the government to:
- Extend producer responsibility to require producers to pay the full net cost of managing their products at end of life.
- Introduce charges for single use plastics.
- Introduce deposit return schemes.
Diversity and inclusion
BEIS has announced that the government will support a new five-year independent review to monitor the representation of women among leaders of FTSE 350 companies, focusing on senior leadership roles as well as board membership. The next annual report on gender diversity is to be published in February 2022.
A new cross-firm collective, Collaboration on Race and Ethnicity (Legal CORE), has been created to increase minority ethnic representation in private practice by collectively driving action across the legal sector and focusing on retention and promotion of ethnically diverse talent.
Institutional Shareholder Services has published its 2022 benchmark policy consultation, seeking views on its proposed new and amended voting policies for 2022. Its proposals relate to board ethnic diversity, ESG performance conditions and climate requirements. The FRC has also published its 2021 annual review of corporate governance reporting against the UK Corporate Governance Code.
The European Commission has published a consultation seeking views on EU corporate reporting and its enforcement, to help it to assess the quality of reporting and compare possible remedies, which are likely to include proposed amendments to the:
- Transparency Directive.
- Accounting Directive.
- Statutory Audit Directive.
- Audit Regulation.
Responses must be received by 4 February 2022.
Duty to report payment practices and performance
BEIS has published an invitation to contribute views and evidence to the statutory review of the Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance Regulations 2017 and the Limited Liability Partnerships (Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance) Regulations 2017. These regulations have been in force since 6 April 2017 and impose a duty on large companies and large LLPs to report on their payment practices and policies in relation to certain specified contracts, together with their performance by reference to those practices and policies, for financial years beginning on or after 6 April 2017. The deadline for submitting responses is 4 February 2022.
The first version of the Finance Bill 2022 contains revised draft legislation introducing the economic crime (anti-money laundering) levy, which will apply to certain persons regulated under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/692). The levy is intended to raise approximately £100 million per year and the first levies will be collected in 2023-24 based on UK revenues reported in 2022-23. HM Treasury has also published the Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing: Supervision Report 2019-20.
The government is expected to admit the first agencies onto the flexi-job apprenticeship register and announce funding grants in December. Apprentices will be employed by flexi-job apprenticeship agencies that hire out apprentices to host organisations.
Dates for your diary
- Consultation on making flexible working the default closes.
- Deadline for publication of the CMA’s market study into electric vehicle charging.
- ICO consultation on the beta version of its AI and Data Protection Risk Toolkit ends.
- Closing date for responses to DCMS call for evidence on National Data Strategy indictor suites.
- The Miscarriage Leave Bill, a Private Members’ Bill to make provision for paid leave for people who have experienced miscarriage, is due to have its second reading.
7 or 8 December
Smith v Pimlico Plumbers Ltd is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal. The case concerns working time and time off.
CMA to publish interim report on possible UK mobile ecosystems market investigation reference.
HMCTS webinar on use of CE-File in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) today.
Deadline for responding to the Civil Justice Council consultation on pre-action protocols (PAPs), outlining options for reforming the Practice Direction – Pre-Action Conduct and existing PAPs, and for introducing new PAPs for certain claims.
- Deadline for submitting evidence to the inquiry into the UK-EU trade relationship.
- Duty on importers to hold supplier declaration that goods meet the rules of origin under UK-EU TCA takes effect.
- End of suspension of negative effects of failure to record licence or interest against comparable trade mark.
- End of suspension of inadmissibility of evidence due to lack of recordal of licence or security interest against re-registered design.