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About: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Our clients have over recent years become increasingly aware of the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors to their business. The global pandemic has highlighted for many people the interconnectedness of our society, the challenges posed by climate change, and rising wealth inequality. Businesses are alive to the advantages of taking into account the views of external and internal stakeholders as well as shareholders, and the risks of not doing so. Investors are looking for sustainable investment opportunities that take into account the impact of businesses on people and on the earth we live on.

There is a wide and growing body of monitoring and reporting requirements, frameworks and standards across different sectors. Climate concerns are currently at the forefront of ESG, and regulation is only going to increase given governments’ desire to ensure they reach milestones on the way to net zero by 2050.  This makes sustainability and ESG reporting a challenging area for businesses to navigate. Our ESG group’s advice is based on decades of experience of advising on environmental, social and governance matters for a diverse range of clients. Whatever your business, our team is here to help you deal with the existing requirements, be prepared for the changes and keep ahead of the competition.

 

Environment

As with the digital transformation, the transformation to a green economy has the potential to fundamentally change the way business is done.

For a long time there has been detailed regulation covering pollution, waste, water and energy efficiency matters, and the domestic regulatory landscape is becoming increasing demanding when it comes to climate change, carbon emission and gains in biodiversity. But the real leap is the scale of changes that businesses are going to be required to make, both to meet regulatory requirements and to adapt to the importance of the environment to stakeholders.

Many businesses are already embracing the opportunities for climate-driven change.  The power sector has seen a marked progress towards the use of renewable energy and there is an increasing focus on sustainable transport. For other businesses, the changes will be drastic: the UK industry sectors account for around a sixth of UK emissions and these emissions need to fall by around two thirds in the next 14 years (i.e. by 2035) if the UK is to meet its targets.

Integrity is also key.  How a business sells itself publicly should match the overall picture: if you’re an arts charity or cycling team selling a low-carbon message, people have been quick to point out if your funding is coming from high-carbon industries. And it isn’t just charities and sports teams: this is an area where all businesses are coming under increasing scrutiny from stakeholders.

We are here to help our clients make the most of the opportunities and to avoid the pitfalls – legal and reputational – of failing to consider emissions targets and the impact their business has on the environment.

 

Social

Social risks are about how businesses interact with society. This element of ESG looks at how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities in which it operates.

Does your company have robust gender and diversity policies? Are they effective? Do you engage with your employees, and local communities? How do you measure customer and employee satisfaction? Having strong answers to these gives you an edge over the competition. It gives access to a better range of employees, creates stronger relationships with customers and improves access to finance.

Thanks to our diverse client portfolio, we’ve got the knowledge and capacity to support you across numerous industries, making sure you’re receiving first class legal support at every turn.

 

Governance

In the wake of the upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a spotlight on the role of the board and management in taking key decisions and being held accountable for them.

For effective decision-making, boards need to be well-run, with a well-considered board composition and committee structures with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

As with the environment and social elements of ESG, it is increasingly important to stakeholders that organisations have values that go beyond taking into account profit and (if you have them) shareholders. And in a world where rumours can be damaging, an organisation should be carefully scrutinising its lobbying activities and political contributions.

As a firm we advise not just companies but also have teams specialising in local government, social housing, charities, and other bodies incorporated by statute, as well as private clients and family offices. We are one of the very few firms with Parliamentary Agents, who are the experts in guiding you through parliamentary and government engagement. Whatever your risk or compliance issue and whatever the nature of your organisation, we would be happy to discuss how we can help.

 

View our ESG Webinar

Key contacts


Colette McCormack
Head of Planning, Partner, Manchester



Lucy Grimwood
Senior Associate, London



Robert Botkai
Partner and Head of Commercial Real Estate and Licensing, London