Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), explained


Last updated: 9. Jul 2024

Nearly 50,000 EU companies will have to disclose their impact on the environment to help consumers and investors make sustainable choices.

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Dr. Alexander Schmidt

Head of Science, Sustainability, and Climate Research

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Evan Farbstein

Content Writer

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Table of Contents

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) sets the standard by which nearly 50,000 EU companies will have to report their climate and environmental impact.

Adopted by the European Commission in November 2022, the CSRD replaces and builds on the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) by introducing more detailed reporting requirements and expanding the number of companies that have to comply.

Why was the CSRD adopted?

Setting a higher bar

Put simply: the EU believes that consumers and investors deserve to know the sustainability impact of businesses, and the CSRD was created because the existing legislation wasn’t cutting it.

Before the CSRD, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) established the reporting principles for large companies. However, the European Commission discovered that the information reported by companies was insufficient:

“Reports often omit information that investors and other stakeholders think is important. Reported information can be hard to compare from company to company, and users of the information are often unsure whether they can trust it.” – The European Commission.

The European Commission reports that low-quality sustainability reporting can have cascading effects, particularly in regards to promoting sustainable investments. To ensure the market for green investments is credible, investors need a clear picture of their investment portfolio’s sustainability impacts. And even investors who aren’t particularly motivated to invest in green companies still need to meet the disclosure requirements of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). 

The European Commission also cited the “accountability gap” in its reasoning for proposing the CSRD:

“High quality and reliable public reporting by companies will help create a culture of greater public accountability.” – The European Commission.

And so the CSRD was created, with the goal of improving disclosure and providing the data investors need when determining a company’s sustainability.

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Global effects

Though it’s an EU directive, the CSRD also applies to companies based abroad that have a presence in the EU.

This means that a hypothetical U.S.-based company with dozens of subsidiaries has to abide by the CSRD if even one of those subsidiaries is in the EU. 

Impacts inward & impacts outward

The CSRD – like the NFRD – requires “double materiality,” which means that businesses will have to disclose not only the risks they face from a changing climate, but also the impacts they may cause to the climate and to society.

For businesses who have historically only analyzed the risks posed to them by climate change – and neglected the role they played in changing the climate – this is a call to do some self-reflection.

Better comparability through standardization

The CSRD will require company sustainability data to be submitted in a standardized digital format.

This is meant to provide a clear format for company sustainability reporting – which is currently rife with many idiosyncratic formats – allowing for better understandability and easier comparison between companies. 

[The CSRD will] end greenwashing, strengthen the EU’s social market economy and lay the groundwork for sustainability reporting standards at global level.

EU Parliament press release, November 10th, 2022.

Who does the CSRD apply to?

The CSRD more than quadruples the number of companies required to report on sustainability, from the 11,000 covered by the NFRD to the nearly 50,000 that will be covered by the CSRD.

Large companies – even ones based outside of the EU

Companies meeting two of the following three conditions will have to comply with the CSRD:

  1. €50+ million in net turnover
  2. €25+ million in assets
  3. 250+ employees

In addition, non-EU companies that have a turnover of above €150 million in the EU will also have to comply.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

The CSRD will apply to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are listed on European markets and meet at least two of the following three conditions

  • €8+ million in net turnover of
  • €4+ million assets
  • 50+ employees

The first reports for SMEs will be due in 2027, though they can be opted out of until 2028.

What should be reported under the CSRD?

Companies will need to disclose the sustainability information in their management reports, which means that financial and sustainability information will be published at the same time. 

This sustainability data will have to be submitted in a standardized digital format, to allow for easier checking and comparison in the European single access point database.

The submitted data will then be subject to “limited third-party assurance,” meaning that an auditor will need to evaluate the data. 

Starting in 2025, CSRD will mandate that businesses have a Paris Agreement-aligned emissions reduction plan to reach net zero by 2050.

What we know about the CSRD’s requirements

EFRAG, a private association financed by the EU, was tasked with developing reporting standards for the CSRD. On July 31, 2023, the European Commission officially adopted the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS). These standards detail the rules and requirements for companies to report on sustainability impacts, opportunities, and risks, and will form a key part of the CSRD. Their adoption marks a significant step towards its implementation.

Under the proposed value chain sustainability reporting, companies would be required to report scope 3 emissions. These indirect emissions result from the company’s upstream and downstream activities. They are notoriously tricky to measure, and it’s not an overnight process – so companies should begin the process as soon as possible, to get ahead of the CSRD mandates and ensure they will be compliant.

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When will the CSRD go into effect?

The European Commission adopted the CSRD in late 2022, and adopted the final guidance in June 2024. The rules will start applying between 2024 and 2028:

  • From 1 January 2024 for large public-interest companies (with over 500 employees) already subject to the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), with reports due in 2025;
  • From 1 January 2025 for large companies that are not presently subject to the NFRD (with more than 250 employees and/or €40 million in turnover and/or €20 million in total assets), with reports due in 2026;
  • From 1 January 2026 for listed SMEs and other undertakings, with reports due in 2027. SMEs can opt-out until 2028.

Start taking action now

The sooner your company begins its CSRD compliance work, the smoother your reporting process will go.

And it’s not just the CSRD—many governing bodies are considering mandatory sustainability reporting. Taking time now to prepare your calculations and reporting will keep you ahead of the curve as new regulations are implemented.

Normative helps you become CSRD-compliant

Normative’s carbon accounting engine uses millions of data points to calculate your company’s climate impact – but that’s just the start.

Our sustainability experts will also help you achieve compliance with reporting requirements like the CSRD, and guide you toward achieving net zero emissions.

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CSRD stands for “Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.”

The CSRD will replace and build on the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) by introducing more detailed reporting requirements and expanding the number of companies that have to comply.

The CSRD applies to large companies based in the EU or with an annual turnover of above €150 million in the EU.

Companies meeting at least two of the following three conditions will have to comply with the CSRD:

1) €40 million in net turnover

2) €20 million in assets

3) 250 or more employees

These proposed standards include the mandate to consider double materiality – how a company both impacts and is impacted by climate change – and to report scope 3 emissions.

The CSRD is finalized and has become law. Companies will be required to start reporting between 2025 and 2029, depending on the size of the company.

Yes, the CSRD will mandate businesses to disclose greenhouse gas emissions.