Sure, it's early days for the Securities and Exchange Commission's new guidelines for climate-change risk disclosure, and they aren't likely to have a big impact on the current reporting season since they were recently released. But that doesn't mean companies can give the guidelines short shrift. In fact, the move signals that dealing with climate-change issues has officially become serious business for corporations in just about every industry.

For many companies, compliance could involve everything from re-jiggering board duties to tightening communications between risk managers, sustainability officers and finance executives. "This will no longer be pigeonholed as just a sustainability issue where a public relations officer puts information into a corporate social sustainability report," says Douglas Cogan, director of climate risk management at RiskMetrics.

Certainly, the guidelines won't put businesses on the hot seat immediately. Introduced in late January, they "came out barely weeks ahead of when many companies were preparing to submit their 10-Ks for 2009," says Cogan. "I would be surprised if there were any actions taken this year."

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