In the next few days, high level talks in the EU parliament will set the direction for who will dominate the ESG verification market. Under the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, 50,000 European companies will need to hire qualified firms to evaluate their ESG reports. Right now this market is dominated by the Big Four, but many are seeing this as brining potentially a conflict of interest when the financial auditors are at the same time auditing sustainability disclosures, and to reduce this risk lawmakers want to introduce controls preventing this, while also opening the market more for other providers. While there is debate on both sides and it's not clear whether companies will be able to choose their audit firm, ultimately it is clear that the new regulations will require audits and auditors properly qualified and with the right ESG experience, especially in the wake of recent scandals in Europe over green washing and inflated claims .
The battle comes amid persistent concerns over the Big Four’s dominance of the market. The UK last month announced sweeping reforms of the accounting industry, including a new watchdog with more powers, while in the US regulators are targeting the firms for potential conflicts of interest.