Better late than never: In July 2017, the European Commission published its guidelines for the disclosure of non-financial information. The aim of the guidelines is to provide companies affected by the so-called CSR reporting obligation with non-binding assistance for reporting. However, whether the guidelines will really help companies is an open question.

You will recall that the EU Directive 2014/95/EU of October 22, 2014, requires that companies of public interest and with more than 500 employees provide information on environmental, social and employee matters. In addition, companies must report on measures to respect human rights and fight corruption. On March 9, 2017, the EU Directive was transposed into national law by the German Bundestag.

Affected companies are obliged to publish the required sustainability information for the 2017 financial year in 2018. The European Commission's guidelines announced for May 2017 promised assistance: based on examples, the document was intended to facilitate the interpretation of the requirements.

Three months later, the time has come: the Commission has issued the guidelines, including in German and English. However, those who had expected comprehensive guidance from the now published guidelines now find themselves disappointed. Although the 20-page document describes the basic principles of reporting, it comes up short, particularly with regard to methodology. Important issues such as the timing of reporting, the application of the principles and the definition of key terms are insufficiently addressed.

Dr. Thijs Willaert

Dr. Thijs Willaert is Head of Marketing & Communications for the Sustainability and Food Safety segments. He is also an auditor for the external audit of sustainability reports. His areas of interest include sustainability management, sustainable procurement, and the digitalization of the audit landscape.