On May 19, CFA Institute published its Exposure Draft of ESG Disclosure Standards for Investment Products (the Exposure Draft). The draft is the second proposed version of standards (the Standards) on principles, requirements and recommendations in connection with the identification, comparison and presentation of investment products with environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related features. The purpose of the Standards is to provide greater transparency and consistency in ESG-related disclosures, resulting in clearer communication regarding the ESG-related features of investment products. With the Exposure Draft, CFA Institute is seeking to elicit feedback from the public on the Standards.

CFA Institute noted that the recent substantial interest in investment products with ESG-related features has prompted a growing number of investment professionals and market participants to call for the development of a global standard to help investors understand which ESG-related investment products align with their needs and preferences. The Standards are meant to address that demand. CFA Institute stated that the Standards are suitable for all types of investment vehicles, all asset classes, all ESG strategies, and all markets.

The Exposure Draft notes that the CFA Institute Asset Manager Code, a voluntary principles-based code that outlines a firm’s ethical and professional responsibilities to clients, states that managers must, among other things, ensure that disclosures are truthful, accurate, complete, and understandable and are presented in a format that communicates the information effectively. The Standards support the Asset Manager Code. The Standards offer more detailed guidance about how to fulfill those requirements when aspects of an investment product’s strategy use ESG information or address ESG issues.

The Exposure Draft considers an ESG-related feature to be any aspect of an investment product’s strategy that uses ESG information or addresses ESG issues. The Standards are intended to be applied by investment managers regardless of how the investment products are named, labelled, or categorized. As well, the Exposure Draft proposes that investment managers have the flexibility to apply the Standard on a product-by-product basis rather than to all products, or at a firm level. The Exposure Draft contains disclosure requirements and recommendations that address certain elements of an investment product’s strategy including objectives, benchmarks, and sources and type of ESG information. The Exposure Draft also includes sample compliant presentations that include ESG information for certain types of investment products.

The Exposure Draft follows work done by CFA Institute’s ESG Working Group composed of industry professionals that explored concepts for a standard that would provide a consistent set of information and enough transparency to help investors understand and compare investment products with ESG-related features. The ESG Working Group released a Consultation Paper on the Development of the CFA Institute ESG Disclosure Standard for Investment Products (the Consultation Paper) in August 2020. Responses to the Consultation Paper confirmed the need for a set of standards and led to the Exposure Draft.

Comments on the Exposure Draft are due July 14, 2021 and can be submitted by any individual, group or organization. CFA Institute has also provided a list of questions for public comment on the Exposure Draft, guidelines for submitting feedback, and a draft response form. Comments received on the Exposure Draft will be considered for the final version of the Standards that are expected to be issued in November 2021.

If you have any questions about the Exposure Draft, please contact your usual lawyer at AUM Law.

June 30, 2021