By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union has reached a deal on corporate sustainability reporting requirements for large companies from 2024, a European Parliament committee said on Tuesday.
Regulators have grown more worried about companies engaging in greenwashing, or making exaggerated climate-friendly claims to attract investor cash.
Members of the European Parliament and EU governments struck a provisional agreement on new reporting rules for large companies, parliament's legal affairs committee said in a statement.
"This aims to end greenwashing and lay the groundwork for sustainability reporting standards at the (the) global level."
Listed or unlisted companies with over 250 staff and turnover of 40 million euros ($42.13 million) will have to disclose environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities, and the impact of their activities on the environment and people.
Some smaller listed companies will be subject to a lighter set of reporting standards, which they can opt out of until 2028, the committee said.
"From now on, having a clean human rights record will be just as important as having a clean balance sheet," said Pascal Durand, who led negotiations for parliament.
Disclosures must be externally audited, Durand said, adding that the rules make room for new players to offer this service, and "not just leave it in the hands of... the Big Four," a reference to EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC which dominate financial auditing.
The rules are part of a package which includes a "taxonomy" of what constitutes a green investment, and ESG disclosures for asset managers to help transition to a climate-neutral economy.
A formal vote by EU states and parliament is needed to ratify Tuesday's deal.
EU is set to become front-runner in setting global sustainability reporting standards, the committee said.
The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission has also proposed climate-related disclosures for companies, and the new International Sustainability Standards Board has proposed disclosure rules which mainly focus on climate.
But unlike the EU, neither require disclosures on a company's impact on the environment.
($1 = 0.9495 euros)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by David Gregorio)