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Help and Frequently Asked Questions

Learn how to use the SEC Climate Disclosure Search Tool and see answers to frequently asked questions about the tool.

How do I get started?

  1. Click “login” then “registration form” to register for a free account.
  2. Under “Choose an issue”, select climate change, water risk, carbon asset risk or hydraulic fracturing.
  3. Select topics, or select filters such as industry group, stock index or company name. (optional)
  4. Click “View Report”.
  5. Customize the report—if needed—and save or print.

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You can refine your results using a variety of filters. The SEC Sustainability Disclosure Search allows searching by year, company, ticker, industry group, type of filer and stock index.  You can search for water or climate risks in any industry, but carbon asset risk and hydraulic fracturing searches are limited to the oil and gas, electric power, coal and mining industry groups.

If your search returns zero results, review the combination of filter parameters that you’ve chosen as some filter parameters are mutually exclusive.  For instance, there are no Canadian 40-F filers in the S&P 500 stock index.

In addition to the standard filters, you can narrow down your search by selecting a topic within each of the four issues.  For instance, for water disclosure searches, click “select a topic” to narrow your search down to issues such as “water & agriculture” or “water scarcity & conflict”.  For climate searches, click “select a topic” to narrow your search down to issues such as “energy/fuel efficiency” and “climate and fossil fuel extraction.”

What is contained in the disclosure report?

The disclosure report contains a set of excerpts, drawn directly from companies’ annual filings, that are relevant to the sustainability issue you’ve chosen.  Each excerpt is identified by page number and the section of the report from which it was drawn.  Color-coded text highlighting guides the user in understanding the content of disclosures.

When viewing a report, click “view extended disclosures” to find additional reporting related to the issue you’ve chosen.  This option allows you to examine potentially relevant disclosures based on looser ‘relevance’ criteria.  Extended disclosures may, therefore, contain more false positive disclosures and may be less relevant to the disclosure topic.

The “disclosure breakdown” chart provides a visual impression of how a company’s reporting breaks down into broad categories.  For climate disclosure, the categories are regulatory risk, physical risk, renewable technology/energy efficiency, and general climate disclosure.  For water, the categories are water supply, management and conservation; regulation; exploration & drilling and non-specific water disclosure.  Likewise, broad categories are used to describe hydraulic fracturing risk and carbon asset risk disclosures.

What is the watch list feature?

The newest feature of the Sustainability Disclosure Search Tool is the ability for each user to create their own list of companies to follow over time.  The user can view and manage his/her own ‘watch list’ and also view the most recent filings by watch list constituents for all the sustainability categories covered by the tool.  Click “add” or “remove” next to a company’s name to make changes to your watch list, or click the “Watch List” link to view the entire list.

Where do these disclosures come from?

The sustainability disclosure reports are comprised of excerpts from companies’ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 10-K, 20-F or 40-F filings. The annual report on Form 10-K provides a comprehensive overview of the company's business and financial condition. It includes audited financial statements as well as narrative discussion of risks facing the business and of business trends and trends in corporate performance. For further information on 10-K filings, start here: sec.gov/answers/form10k.htm.

Form 20-F is the primary disclosure document for foreign companies which raise capital or establish a trading presence for their securities in U.S. capital markets, and is most often filed as an annual report under the Exchange Act.  The disclosure requirements of Form 20-F are largely similar to those required of U.S. corporations. Significant differences mostly concern the financial statement and executive compensation disclosure.  For more information, see sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/cfforeignissuers.shtml.

Foreign private issuers based in Canada use Form 40-F.  See Topic 16: Multijurisdictional Disclosure System in the SEC’s Financial Reporting Manual, sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/cffinancialreportingmanual.shtml.

Why do I not see my company listed in the results?

The SEC Sustainability Disclosure Search examines filings from a large number of U.S. corporations, including members of the S&P 500 and Russell 3000 indices as well as smaller companies, and all foreign corporations which file Forms 20-F or 40-F with the SEC.  If a company does not appear in your search results, try adjusting your search parameters.  New filings are added weekly.

In addition, consider how your chosen filters are applied.  For instance, carbon asset risk is only relevant only to companies in high-emitting industry segments (oil and gas, electrical utilities, coal and mining companies).  Hydraulic fracturing risk is only relevant to companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing activities.  If you choose to view disclosures by companies in a US stock index (such as S&P 500), your results will not contain foreign company disclosures.

What should I do if a company has no disclosure?

If the search tool finds no disclosure for a particular issue, a link to the full filing on the SEC’s website is provided: click “None found (View SEC Filing)”.  A company that provides no disclosure on a particular issue, such as water risk, may report on another issue, such as climate change.

Companies failing to make any sustainability disclosures in their SEC filings may nevertheless have used voluntary disclosure mechanisms including:

Why should companies disclose the risks and opportunities to their business related to climate change, water availability and quality, carbon asset risk and hydraulic fracturing?

Sustainability disclosure in SEC filings has become an increasingly important source of information for investors and stakeholders. If management believes the firm faces material sustainability risks, SEC rules require disclosure of those issues. In addition, the 2010 SEC Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change advises companies on what climate risks may be material and how to report them, and its principles are applicable to other sustainability issues.

Why are investors interested in sustainability risk disclosure?

Investors increasingly recognize that sustainability concerns threaten to change the competitive landscape across whole industries and markets, and they require improved corporate reporting to understand these issues. Narrative disclosure can include decision-useful information and reflect a company's current response to sustainability concerns and preparedness for likely future risks.

What is the SEC’s guidance on climate change disclosure?

The SEC’s guidance to companies on what to disclose about climate risks and opportunities relevant to their business, and where to report them, is contained in its 2010 interpretive guidance on climate change disclosure. The guidance was requested by members of Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) starting in 2003. The guidance discusses the rules under Regulation S-K that require disclosure related to climate change where material to the business.

The impacts of federal and state legislation and regulation, international accords, indirect consequences or opportunities arising out of regulation or business trends, and the likely impacts on the business of physical forces such as severe weather or sea level rise are all flagged as candidates for disclosure.

What is special about this search tool?

The SEC climate disclosure guidance does not specify precisely how or where disclosures should be made. While narrative disclosure can be a rich source of information, SEC filings can span a hundred or more pages of text, graphs and tables. It is difficult and time consuming to manually compile a snapshot of sustainability risk disclosure from even a single filing, much less survey the status of sustainability risk reporting across a peer group of companies, industry grouping or larger universe.

The SEC Sustainability Disclosure Search Tool allows investors, companies, analysts and stakeholders to conduct quick and sophisticated searches for relevant disclosures in annual 10-K, 20-F and 40-F filings.

Ceres and CookESG Research have worked together to develop an interface through which sophisticated text analysis allows you to identify, compare and explore sustainability risk disclosures that are made by companies via their SEC filings through a single, intuitively designed portal.

The tool covers over 5,000 U.S. and foreign publicly traded corporations from 2009 to the present and focuses on climate change, water risk, carbon asset risk and hydraulic fracturing disclosure. Subsequent releases will extend coverage of companies, filings and sustainability issues.