More than half of FTSE 100 companies now have a board-level committee focusing on ESG issues, a sign of their desire to become more sustainable.
A dedicated ESG committee can help a company speed up the push toward net-zero goals, lower emissions faster and boost investments in carbon offsets. Better ESG credentials, in turn, can improve a company’s eligibility for ESG-focused funds, raise the liquidity of its shares, and support the stock price.
The UK’s governance code requires FTSE 100 companies to have audit, renumeration and nomination committees, but there’s no such stipulation for environmental, social and governance practices. The latest data shows that 54% of FTSE 100 companies have nonetheless set up an ESG committee at board level.
“If you are a FTSE 100 company without an ESG committee at board level, then you are now in a shrinking minority,” said Maria Hughes, director at UK-based Mattison Public Relations, which did the research.
Large US companies appear to be moving less quickly. An analysis for 2020-2021 showed that only 13% of S&P 500 companies assign responsibility to an ESG/sustainability committee, while 7% indicated that the full board has primary ESG responsibility, according to data compiled by Deloitte. Meanwhile, 53% of S&P 500 boards use the nominating and governance committee for primary oversight.
Every FTSE 100 oil and gas company, such as BP and Shell, as well as every mining company in the index, including Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Group, has an ESG committee, the research showed.
By comparison, only 13% of FTSE 100 companies in the non-bank financial services sector (including insurers, asset managers and retail investment platforms) have ESG committees.
Of the 54 FTSE 100 companies with ESG committees, 56% are made up entirely of non-executive directors. According to Mattison, this approach can improve oversight of corporate ESG performance.