ESG: Evolution or revolution?

ESG: Evolution or revolution?

Jonathan Bower, partner, planning and infrastructure team leader and partner lead for net zero by 2030 strategy at Womble Bond Dickinson, sets out the case for a clear ESG vision with a focus on inspiring behavioural change

Historical events have often led to transformative changes. The Industrial Revolution was one such moment and, today, we’re on the brink of another significant shift – an environmental, social and governance revolution. Although centuries apart, there are clear parallels between the two, not least the considerable cultural and social change needed to create a revolution. Continue reading “ESG: Evolution or revolution?”

Lebanon’s struggle for stability amid economic and geopolitical challenges

Lebanon’s struggle for stability amid economic and geopolitical challenges

Lebanon finds itself trapped in a profound political, economic, financial, and social crisis, the effects of which have echoed across its public services and societal fabric for half a decade. This multifaceted crisis has created a stark escalation in poverty levels, marking a troubling descent in the standard of living for almost half the population. Concurrently, the efficacy of public sector institutions has faded, with service provision faltering under the strain of fiscal constraints and administrative inefficiencies.

Inflation and workforce exodus

At the heart of this turmoil lies a relentless inflationary spiral, driving up prices and eroding the purchasing power of ordinary citizens. However, in the first quarter of 2024, inflation showed signs of slowing down while the exodus of skilled workers from the public sector, lured by more promising prospects in the private sector or abroad, continues.

Armed conflict and damages

The situation is further aggravated by ongoing conflicts, notably the war along Lebanon’s Southern border in conjunction with the war in Gaza. This ongoing conflict has taken a heavy toll on the country’s physical infrastructure, destroying houses, roads, and agricultural lands with extensive forest fires and the destruction of thousands of acres of farmland, and soil damage due to the use of white phosphorus bombs. Moreover, since 8 October 2024, over 90,000 people have been displaced from southern Lebanon, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, and highlighting the severe impact of the regional instability on civilian lives.

Syrian refugee crisis

Lebanon hosts more than two million Syrian refugees who have fled their homes in search of safety due to the civil war, marking the highest per capita globally. This influx has placed a severe strain on Lebanon’s resources and infrastructure. Syrian refugees often work without permits, do not pay taxes, and do not pay for electricity. Even before the Syrian refugee crisis began in 2011, Lebanon faced a shortage in electricity production relative to consumption. Over the past five years, the number of refugees has increased significantly, leading to a surge in electricity consumption. This has exacerbated the strain on Lebanon’s already struggling power grid, leading to more frequent and prolonged power outages. Additionally, a large number of refugees are involved in criminal activities, and more than half lack residency status, exacerbating social tensions and straining the country’s infrastructure. The burden is particularly evident in public services. There is an overload on healthcare services, schools are operating in two shifts to accommodate the influx of refugee children, and roads and other infrastructure are under significant pressure.

Furthermore, the security services are weakened due to inadequate wages and resources, making them less effective in dealing with ordinary crime. The proportion of Syrian detainees compared to the overall prison population is higher than that of Lebanese detainees. Despite efforts by Lebanese authorities, the international response, particularly from Europe and the United States, has been inadequate, ignoring the calls for facilitating the refugees’ return to safe zones
in Syria.

‘Lebanon faces an uphill battle to salvage its economic vitality and restore normalcy for its population amid these challenges.’

IMF Negotiations

Since May 2020, Lebanon has been in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package that would help stop the deterioration of its macroeconomic outlook. An initial Staff Level Agreement (SLA) was signed between Lebanon and the IMF in April 2022 for a four-year extended fund facility that envisioned restructuring the financial sector, undertaking fiscal reforms, and strengthening governance. However, progress in implementing the actions mandated by the 2022 agreement has been extremely slow. In such a scenario of limited progress, the IMF has warned that continued inaction and weak willingness for reform could lead to a ‘never-ending crisis’.

World Bank initiatives

The World Bank has initiated several projects to support Lebanon’s recovery. One major initiative is the US$34m Fiscal Management Project in February 2024, aimed at restoring core fiscal management functions to support revenue mobilisation and ensure the accountable use of public resources. This project focuses on stabilising revenue administration, enhancing tax compliance, and upgrading ICT systems for tax and customs functions. It also seeks to restore fiscal controls, improve budget preparation and fiscal reporting, and strengthen oversight and accountability mechanisms.

Currency stability

Despite the challenging environment, the Lebanese pound (LP) maintained a stability against the US dollar on the parallel FX market due to:

  1. high dollarisation as Lebanon’s economy heavily relies on the US dollar for transactions and savings;
  2. convergence between official and parallel exchange rates: Since mid-February 2024, there has been a relative convergence between the official exchange rate and the parallel market rate for the Lebanese pound against the US dollar;
  3. growth in BDL’s liquid FX buffers: The Banque du Liban (BDL), Lebanon’s central bank, has experienced continuous growth in its liquid foreign exchange (FX) reserves; and
  4. due to quasi-balanced public and external accounts: Lebanon’s public finances (government revenues and expenditures) and external accounts (foreign trade and financial transactions) were somewhat balanced or stable.

Conclusion

Lebanon faces an uphill battle to salvage its economic vitality and restore normalcy for its population amid these challenges. Continued efforts towards fiscal reforms, international support, and effective governance will be crucial for its recovery.

Law Offices of Naoum Farah as a law firm deeply invested in Lebanon’s future, we are committed to supporting legal reforms that promote transparency, accountability, and sustainable development. We believe that through strategic legal interventions and robust policy frameworks, Lebanon can overcome its current challenges and build a more stable and prosperous future.

For more information, please contact:

Law Offices of Naoum Farah
Farrania Building, Said Freyha Street, Hazmieh
Po Box 16 7055
Achrafieh, 1100-2180 Beirut
Lebanon

T: 961 5 957 600
E: lawfarah@lawfarah.com

Q&A: Sarah Thompson, Arthur Cox

Q&A: Sarah Thompson, Arthur Cox

What is the current state of Irish legislation on ESG?

Environmental, social and governance considerations have always been important to our clients but in recent years conversations about ESG matters have risen to the top of many organisations’ agendas, especially following the pandemic.

At Arthur Cox, we have seen demand for ESG-related advice increase over recent years and we expect that trend to continue as ESG considerations are pondered by governments, regulators, companies, investors and wider society.

The Irish legislative landscape on ESG matters is made up of domestic and EU measures (all of which exist in the context of global initiatives and discussions).

ESG touches upon multiple policy areas, such as climate action, biodiversity, energy, water, financial services, commercial enterprise, and transport. This means that legislation on ESG covers a broad range of topics and has an impact on multiple stakeholders.

When we talk about ESG, many of the legislative measures over the past decade have focused on the E of ESG, ie environmental goals (particularly those related to climate), but it is important to remember that there have also been significant legislative and policy initiatives connected to the S and the G.

Irish domestic initiatives over recent years are many and varied. They include the publication of Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework in 2018, the passing of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act in 2021, committing Ireland to specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 2030 and 2050, the Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Act in 2022 (supporting Ireland’s transition to a circular economy) and the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act in 2023 (setting new ‘S’ rules for Irish workers).

At an EU level, measures such as the European Commission’s 2018 Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, 2019 Green Deal and 2021 Sustainable Finance Strategy have led to a proliferation of European legislative measures, some of which are directly effective in Ireland with others being transposed into Irish law.

Are there any recent or upcoming changes to Irish ESG legislation that our readers should be aware of?

There are a number of measures that Irish businesses should be aware of and the key one to mention is the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

Irish legislation transposing the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is expected to be published ahead of the 6 July 2024 deadline. Companies within scope of the first phase will be preparing to report in 2025 on FY 2024.

We recognise that ESG considerations are impacting all of our clients across sectors not just through law and regulation but through other potential ESG-related exposures.

What legal obligations do Irish companies have in terms of ESG reporting?

Many of the legal obligations concerning ESG in Ireland stem from EU legislation. The focus of EU ESG measures in recent years has been on disclosure and reporting (as opposed to mandating specific actions).

The measures include those set out in:

  • the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (2014/95/EU)
  • the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (EU) 2022/2464
  • the Sustainable Finance Disclosures Regulation (EU) 2019/2088
  • the Taxonomy Regulation (EU) 2020/852
  • the Capital Requirements Regulation (EU) No 575/2013
  • the Low Carbon Benchmarks Regulation (EU) 2019/2089
  • the Climate Law Regulation (EU) 2021/1119
  • the Gender Balance on Corporate Boards Directive (EU) 2022/2381

How does Irish law enforce ESG disclosure by companies?

Enforcement covering matters that are now labelled ESG is not new. Up to now, Irish law has overseen ESG disclosures under general rules of company law, eg, through examining company reports for material misstatements. Given the new and upcoming ESG-specific disclosure requirements, we expect enforcement to become increasingly robust with companies’ sustainability information being scrutinised by various stakeholders including regulators, lenders, insurance companies, shareholders and the general public.

The reach of ESG regulation is very broad and the regulatory sanctions will vary depending on the particular regulator engaged by the event that triggers an investigation. The regulatory and reputational implications of investigations are likely to be particularly significant if greenwashing allegations emerge.

It is important to remember that enforcement action by regulators is not the only means by which company disclosure will be scrutinised and challenged and we expect a rise in actions through litigation.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with ESG regulations in Ireland?

Regulatory sanctions will depend on the nature of the specific regime engaged. They can include directions, cautions, reprimands, fines, suspensions or revocations of authorisations.

Given the number of different sources of ESG regulations in Ireland, it may be most helpful to give an illustrative example. Taking the CSRD as that example, the CSRD will require companies to report sustainability information in compliance with new reporting standards. Failure to comply with these standards can result in substantial fines, eg, financial penalties of up to €50,000 and administrative fines of up to 2% of a company’s annual average revenue if it exceeds €400m.

Outside formal, financial penalties, it is also important for companies to consider the reputational risks associated with getting ESG disclosures wrong.

How does Irish ESG legislation address social issues such as employment rights and diversity?

Irish ESG legislation has been increasingly attentive to social issues, including employment rights and diversity, which underscores a broader commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion issues.

The introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Information Act in 2021 marked a significant step towards transparency in the workplace, requiring organisations with more than 250 employees to report gender pay gap metrics. From 2024, companies with 150 employees or more will be required to submit gender pay gap reports, and from 2025 this will be extended to companies with 50 employees or more.

How does Irish legislation ensure the environmental aspect of ESG, specifically in terms of sustainability and climate change?

Irish legislation has taken significant steps to ensure the environmental aspect of ESG, particularly focusing on sustainability and climate change.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act, signed into law in 2021, commits Ireland to a legally binding path to net-zero emissions by 2050 and a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 from a 2018 baseline.

This act is a cornerstone in Ireland’s framework to meet its international and EU climate commitments, aiming to transform the economy towards a greener future.

What is Arthur Cox’s approach to ESG issues in its legal practice?

At Arthur Cox, we recognise that ESG considerations are impacting all of our clients across sectors not just through regulation but through impacts on their business proposition.

Our ESG group works with our clients to identify and integrate ESG priorities at all levels of their businesses. We advise clients on areas such as energy transition, climate action, sustainable finance and green bonds, ESG disclosures and sustainability reporting, sustainable real estate investment and development and green leases.

What sets us apart from other firms is the breadth and cutting-edge nature of our ESG practice. Our ESG group is at the forefront of the market, providing clients with advice across the entire ESG space.

We have assembled a cross-disciplinary team of experts who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience across sectors to work with our clients to meet their ESG-related goals and obligations.

Our approach is collaborative and client-focused. We work closely with clients to understand their unique goals and challenges, providing tailored solutions that reflect the latest legal updates and industry insights.

What measures has your firm taken to improve its own ESG performance?

Sustainability for us involves a commitment to robust governance, policies, and practices. That commitment includes a relentless focus on diversity and inclusion, respect for human rights, responsible procurement and environmental sustainability. The integration of each of these elements is a key part of the decision making for our business.

Our ESG strategies are overseen by our Sustainable Business Committee, which manages our Sustainable Business Programme. At the core of this programme is the annual publication of our Sustainable Business Impact Report. Launched in 2021, this report is a comprehensive overview of our initiatives and accomplishments across four essential dimensions: community, workplace, marketplace, and environment. By aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we aim to show our commitment to global sustainability standards.

We aim to play an active role in contributing to positive change while minimising our environmental impact through a programme of monitoring and continuous improvement.

What are the biggest ESG challenges your firm currently faces, and how are you addressing them?

As a firm, we have set ambitious targets in relation to reducing our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Over the past 12 months, we have continued to work with our people and external stakeholders to assist us in the delivery of the key measures required to achieve our carbon reduction goals.

Our work in this area is continuing and we are very aware that we need to continue to work with our people to reduce our carbon footprint as an organisation. To address this, we are working hard to explore alternatives so that we can provide more sustainable options through an updated travel policy, online meetings, events and other operations.

How does the firm assist clients in integrating ESG factors into their business strategies?

We assist clients in navigating reporting obligations and advise boards on strategic planning, risk management and internal controls to support disclosure in relation to their business operations and value chains.

Our ESG group advises on disclosure and sustainability reporting obligations in relation to climate, diversity and other aspects of ESG in compliance with local and international legislation and voluntary frameworks, including the CSRD, the Taxonomy Regulation and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

We also advise companies on all aspects of their governance arrangements. Board governance and oversight is essential in developing and delivering effective ESG strategy, managing risks including activism and litigation, supporting robust disclosure and maintaining stakeholder engagement.

We provide regular ‘horizon scanning’ insights to legal teams and company boards regarding ESG-related developments and advise boards on topical issues including board diversity, executive remuneration, directors’ duties and the implications of new legislation such as the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD).

Can you share some examples of how Arthur Cox has helped clients navigate complex ESG issues?

Our ESG team offers advice on a multitude of complex ESG issues, such as:

Environmental: Under the environmental pillar we advise on energy system transition, energy efficiency and demand side response, resource management and the circular economy, carbon sequestration and emissions reduction, sustainable finance, climate-related plans, disclosures and activism and environmental due diligence.

Social: On the social side, we have extensive experience advising on the social impacts of organisations on internal and external stakeholders. We advise on equality and discrimination matters, environment, health and safety issues, community investment and capacity building as well as human rights and the rule of law.

Governance: Good governance is a core aspect of ESG, and our team regularly advises clients on all aspects of their governance arrangements, including areas such as strategic oversight, risk management, shareholder engagement and reporting and transparency.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Thompson, partner, Arthur Cox

E: sarah.thompson@arthurcox.com

www.arthurcox.com/esg-hub

Understanding the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence: A comprehensive guide

Understanding the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence: A comprehensive guide

The European Union has taken a significant step towards promoting sustainable and responsible business practices with the adoption of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). Approved on 24 April 2024, this directive mandates large companies operating within the EU to integrate human rights and environmental due diligence into their operations and value chains. This article delves into the key aspects of the CSDDD, its implications for businesses, and the expected outcomes for various stakeholders. Continue reading “Understanding the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence: A comprehensive guide”

The Saudi Arabian legal market

The Saudi Arabian legal market

Profile: An Overview of the Firm

At the heart of Saudi Arabia’s evolving commercial landscape stands ELaw Boutique Law Firm, a premier boutique law firm renowned for its specialisation in commercial and corporate law. Our firm has consistently demonstrated exceptional proficiency in navigating the intricate legal intricacies associated with these sectors, empowering our clients to achieve their strategic objectives with minimal legal impediments. We pride ourselves on providing personalised, client-centred legal solutions that are both innovative and practical.

Foundation and core values

ELaw was founded with the vision of offering unparalleled legal service through a focus on excellence, integrity, and innovation. Our core values are deeply rooted in these principles, which guide our day-to-day operations and long-term goals. We believe that every client deserves a tailored approach that addresses their unique needs and circumstances. Our attorneys work closely with clients to ensure that every legal strategy is bespoke, multifaceted, and effective.

Expertise in commercial and corporate law

Our firm’s expertise in commercial and corporate law is unmatched. We understand the complexities of the corporate world and provide strategic advice that helps our clients navigate through mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, corporate governance, and regulatory compliance. At ELaw, we believe that informed decision-making is the cornerstone of business success. Our attorneys excel at anticipating legal challenges and providing solutions that align with our clients’ business objectives.

Expansion into technology law

In recent years, we have expanded our expertise into the rapidly advancing field of technology law. This includes fintech, regtech, and other emerging technological sectors, where we aim to be at the forefront of legal innovation. The digital revolution calls for a new breed of legal experts, and ELaw is dedicated to meeting this demand. We assist tech companies in dealing with regulatory compliance, intellectual property rights, and data protection, among other key legal issues. Our proactive approach ensures that our clients remain compliant in an ever-changing regulatory environment.

Client-centred approach

What sets ELaw apart is our client-centred approach. We believe that the relationship between a law firm and its clients should be based on trust, communication, and mutual respect. Our attorneys take the time to understand the business models, goals, and challenges of our clients, enabling us to offer solutions that are both innovative and practical. Whether advising a startup or an established corporation, our focus is always on providing value and delivering results that exceed expectations.

Conclusion

ELaw Boutique Law Firm is more than just a legal service provider; we are a trusted partner committed to the success and sustainability of our clients’ businesses. Our comprehensive expertise in commercial, corporate, and technology law, combined with our client-centric approach, positions us as leaders in the legal field. As we continue to evolve and expand, our core mission remains the same: to empower our clients through exceptional legal counsel, fostering growth and innovation in an ever-changing world.

Thought Leadership: Legal Developments in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been witnessing transformative legal developments over the past decade, reflecting its Vision 2030 agenda aimed at diversifying the economy and reducing dependency on oil. These changes encompass a wide range of legislative reforms, judicial advancements, and regulatory updates. As thought leaders in the legal domain, ELaw Boutique Law Firm is at the forefront of these shifts, helping clients navigate the evolving landscape with confidence and agility.

Technology law: paving the way for innovation
One of the most significant areas of development has been technology law. The Saudi government recognises the importance of creating a robust legal framework to support the burgeoning fintech and regtech industries. Recent regulations have focused on ensuring cyber security, protecting consumer data, and fostering a conducive environment for innovation. These measures are pivotal in creating a legal ecosystem that supports technological advancement while safeguarding consumer interests.

For instance, the introduction of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA)’s Regulatory Sandbox exemplifies the Kingdom’s commitment to nurturing fintech innovations. This initiative allows companies to test new technologies in a controlled environment, balancing innovation with consumer protection. Through this sandbox, fintech entities can experiment with novel solutions under regulatory oversight, thereby accelerating the development of cutting-edge financial technologies.

Additionally, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) has implemented several regulations aimed at facilitating fintech growth, including equity crowdfunding regulations and others in financial transactions. These regulations not only provide a clear legal framework for fintech operations but also encourage transparency and accountability, essential for building investor trust and market integrity.

Corporate governance: enhancing transparency and compliance

Another critical development is the overhaul of corporate governance standards. News about the imminent release of guidelines stipulates stricter compliance and transparency measures for certain activities, aiming to enhance investor confidence and attract foreign investments in these sectors. These changes are particularly relevant for businesses looking to establish or expand their operations in Saudi Arabia. By adhering to these enhanced governance standards, companies can better manage risks, improve strategic decision-making, and strengthen their market position.

The rules will require greater disclosure of financial and operational information, along with a clear delineation of responsibilities among board members and executives. This move aims to align Saudi corporate governance practices with international standards, thereby making the Kingdom a more attractive destination for foreign investors. Effective governance practices not only mitigate risks but also contribute to sustainable business growth.

Judicial advancements: streamlining dispute resolution

Judicial reforms have also been instrumental in supporting Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. These reforms focus on improving the efficiency and transparency of the legal system, making it easier and faster to resolve commercial disputes. This is crucial for fostering a business-friendly environment where legal ambiguities do not hinder commercial activities. The establishment of specialised commercial courts and the digitisation of legal processes are notable strides towards achieving this goal.

Regulatory updates: adapting to global standards

Regulatory updates in various sectors have been geared towards adapting global best practices to the Saudi context. This includes aligning local laws with international standards in areas such as anti-money laundering (AML), combating the financing of terrorism (CFT), and intellectual property rights (IPR). These efforts not only enhance compliance but also ensure that Saudi businesses remain competitive on the global stage.

Conclusion

Saudi Arabia is well on its way to becoming a hub for technological innovation and commercial growth, thanks to these dynamic legal reforms. At ELaw Boutique Law Firm, we are committed to staying abreast of these changes, ensuring our clients are well-prepared to navigate the evolving legal landscape. Our expertise in commercial, corporate, and technology law positions us as the ideal partner for businesses aiming to thrive in this rapidly transforming market. By leveraging our deep understanding of Saudi Arabian legal frameworks, we help our clients achieve their strategic objectives with confidence and agility.

Q&A: Interview with Ethar Aldaej

How has ELaw adapted to the rapid legal changes in Saudi Arabia?

We have adopted a proactive approach to legal changes, continuously updating our knowledge base and adapting our strategies to align with the latest regulations. Our team frequently engages in professional development and collaborates with regulatory bodies to ensure we provide the most current and effective legal advice.

What sets your firm apart in the fields of commercial and corporate law?

Our firm’s unique blend of local knowledge and international perspective sets us apart. We offer tailored legal solutions that cater specifically to our clients’ needs, ensuring they can operate seamlessly within the local legal framework while pursuing their strategic goals.

Can you share some insights on the future of fintech and regtech in Saudi Arabia?

The future of fintech and regtech in Saudi Arabia is incredibly promising. With ongoing regulatory support and a growing interest from the private sector, these industries are poised for significant growth. Our firm is ideally positioned to guide clients through this dynamic landscape, helping them innovate while remaining compliant.

How does ELaw incorporate technology and innovation in its legal practice?

We leverage cutting-edge technology and innovative tools to enhance our legal services. From AI-driven research to digital client management systems, we integrate advanced solutions to increase efficiency, accuracy, and client satisfaction. Our commitment to technological advancement ensures we stay ahead in the ever-evolving legal landscape.

What are the main challenges that ELaw faces in the current legal environment?

The main challenges include staying ahead of rapid legal changes, managing the complexities of cross-border transactions, and ensuring data security in a digital age. We address these challenges through continual learning, strategic partnerships, and robust cyber security measures, enabling us to provide comprehensive and secure legal services.

How does ELaw support the professional development of its team?

We prioritise the growth and development of our team by offering regular training sessions, access to industry conferences, and opportunities for further education. Additionally, we foster a collaborative environment where knowledge sharing and continuous learning are encouraged, ensuring our team remains at the forefront of legal expertise.

In what ways does ELaw contribute to the local community and legal education?

ELaw actively participates in community outreach programmes, pro bono work, and legal education initiatives. We conduct workshops, seminars, and mentorship programmes to support local legal education and awareness. By giving back to the community, we aim to contribute to the overall growth and development of the legal profession in Saudi Arabia.

Can you describe a recent successful case or project that ELaw worked on?

Recently, we assisted a major international corporation in navigating complex regulatory requirements to establish operations in Saudi Arabia. Our team provided comprehensive legal support, from initial consultation to final implementation, ensuring compliance with local laws and achieving the client’s strategic objectives. This successful project underscores our expertise in handling intricate legal matters and delivering exceptional client results.

What are ELaw’s goals for the next five years?

Over the next five years, we aim to expand our services, enhance our technological capabilities, and strengthen our international partnerships. By focusing on these goals, we plan to solidify our position as a leading legal firm in Saudi Arabia and continue to provide unparalleled service to our clients.

How does ELaw approach client relationships and customer service?

At ELaw, we prioritise building strong, lasting relationships with our clients. We achieve this by providing personalised service, understanding each client’s unique needs, and maintaining transparent communication throughout our engagement. Our client-centric approach ensures that we deliver not only legal solutions but also peace of mind and confidence in our services.

For more information, please contact:

Ethar Aldaej ELaw Boutique law firm
Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz road, Northern AlMuather district
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

T: +966558293193
E: hello@elawksa.com
www.linkedin.com/company/elaw-firm

www.elawksa.com

Conformity assessments under the EU AI Act: Ensuring compliance, safety, and trust in artificial intelligence

Conformity assessments under the EU AI Act: Ensuring compliance, safety, and trust in artificial intelligence

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has ushered in an era of unprecedented technological advancements, transforming various sectors by enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and decision-making capabilities. However, the proliferation of AI technologies also brings forth significant challenges, particularly concerning safety, fairness, transparency, and accountability. In response to these challenges, the European Union (EU) has proposed and the European Parliament has formally adapted the EU AI Act, a comprehensive regulatory framework aimed at fostering innovation while ensuring the safe and ethical deployment of AI systems. A central element of this framework is the requirement for conformity assessments, particularly for high-risk AI systems. This article explores the intricacies of conformity assessments as mandated by the EU AI Act, detailing their purpose, processes, and implications for AI developers and users.

Continue reading “Conformity assessments under the EU AI Act: Ensuring compliance, safety, and trust in artificial intelligence”

‘An ever-growing region of high importance’: doing business in Iran

‘An ever-growing region of high importance’: doing business in Iran

Iran is a strategic country located in the Middle East, possessing abundant natural resources such as oil, gas, gold, and other mines and minerals. In addition, Iran enjoys the benefits of having access to the Caspian Sea in the north, and to the Persian Gulf and free waters of Oman in the south.

Moreover, Iran is one of the top ten countries in the world with the most officially registered UNESCO World Heritage sites, and is among the few four-season countries of the world which benefits from diverse landscapes and geographical distribution, and thus having the potential to become an attractive tourism destination. Iran, at the same time, possesses a favourable climate for producing a variety of agricultural products, such as saffron and pistachios. Continue reading “‘An ever-growing region of high importance’: doing business in Iran”

Cyber security is a constant threat to your law firm

Cyber security is a constant threat to your law firm

Jonathan Ashley of etiCloud on how prevention is the best defence when it comes to keeping your company safe from cyber attacks

‘Cyber security breaches and attacks remain a common threat.’ – Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2024, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Home Office. Continue reading “Cyber security is a constant threat to your law firm”

The growing importance of ESG data in the legal sector

The growing importance of ESG data in the legal sector

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) has evolved at a rapid pace in recent years. We’ve seen a meteoric rise in stakeholder engagement and interest well beyond the investment community where the concept initially started to gain mainstream attention. This really accelerated in 2020 around the Covid pandemic when the importance of pressing global issues like the combined climate and biodiversity crises were re-evaluated. This was followed by well documented labour and sourcing issues as global economies opened back up after lockdowns. We are now entering a phase where there is a clear shift in progress, away from voluntary standards and best practice ESG frameworks, towards mandatory reporting and stricter disclosure requirements. These can be linked to specific issues such as physical and transition climate risks, but also to the more general ESG issues, for example supply chain and the associated issues of modern slavery and forced labour.

As a consequence, there is now more ESG data than ever before, and an ever-growing demand for good quality, accurate information, not just on or for an individual entity, but data and insights on its wider value chain.

ESG data has therefore become increasingly important for organisations, none more so than for law firms who have practice areas and touchpoints across many sectors and rely on up-to-date, precise information to fulfil their responsibilities to clients. Law firms with corporate practices will need to advise their clients on ESG risks and opportunities associated with ESG due diligence, emerging or recently introduced regulations such as Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) or Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) in the EU.

One of the major developments that has occurred in the last 12 months has been the move via the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) to consolidate a number of ESG standards such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) into a single standard. This led to the development and release of International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standards. Long heralded as the start of the global baseline for ESG standards, the objective was to streamline and simplify ESG, and reduce the alphabet soup of standards across multiple jurisdictions. As this regime beds in, challenges remain to have such a unified set of ESG standards that should bring much needed clarity and precision into ESG terminology.

The challenges and opportunities for law firms

This historic lack of standardisation was in part responsible for the patchwork of regulatory and disclosure requirements. This in turn created uncertainty about the quality and reliability of data which then led to greenwashing by many businesses, with the consequent well publicised greenwashing litigation and investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

These uncertainties create very real challenges when advising private equity firms on ESG diligence. The complexities include the jurisdictions of your clients, the target companies being acquired, their industry, size, structure and whether they are private or listed entities. To navigate this minefield, there is a clear need for a robust standardised and repeatable risk screening approach to enable key global ESG issues to be framed during the diligence phase.

‘While the current ESG landscape does present major challenges, it also presents a unique opportunity for law firms to position themselves as leaders.’ Tom Venables, Landmark

But while the current ESG landscape does present major challenges, it also presents a unique opportunity for law firms to position themselves as leaders in this fast-emerging space and build out their own services to support the needs of their clients backed by the best data and insights. Many firms have made great strides in developing dedicated ESG practice areas and, with surveys over the past couple of years indicating, many more have plans to do so in the future. With the development of these teams comes the need for robust and reliable data that can be incorporated into a firm’s ESG processes and systems.

The role of technology

Technology is already playing a critical role in the utilisation of ESG data in a number of contexts, with many firms integrating software solutions or systems to enhance their existing processes. Notable advancements such as the prerequisite for CSRD reporting to have digital tags and for the reports to be machine readable so submissions can be easily accessible within an EU-wide central database all point towards a future of abundant and accessible ESG information.

When considering ESG data for specific scenarios such as due diligence, technology provides a powerful tool to identify and draw out difficult to find information, whether that’s specific information hidden in company disclosures and annual reports, or interrogating regulatory databases to identify information on product recalls or data breaches.

‘There will be a fine line to tread for all organisations between the exponential increase in energy consumption needed to power the AI revolution, against the backdrop of the transition to a net zero world.’ Tom Venables, Landmark

The future of ESG data will undoubtedly revolve around generative AI models and machine learning combined with the oversight and input from expert consultants. We can anticipate the development of forward-looking projections that consider global changes around complex interrelated factors including political instability, climate change, biodiversity loss and systemic risks. Of course, there will be a fine line to tread for all organisations between the exponential increase in energy consumption needed to power the AI revolution, against the backdrop of the transition to a net zero world.

Introducing Risk Horizon ESG Screen Report

Landmark’s ESG risk screening tool Risk Horizon, and its managed service ESG Screen reports, have been supporting leading national and international law firms over the last four years. Risk Horizon has been used to provide analysis and insights to aid ESG diligence on PE advisory, corporate mergers and acquisitions, client and supplier screening, in addition to gap analysis on law firms’ own ESG credentials.

Data and partnerships

Landmark is an IFRS Sustainability Alliance Member and licensee for using SASB standards data and IP forming the underlying Risk Horizon framework for industry risk. Key Risk Horizon features include:

  • Scope of topics covered by Risk Horizon are aligned with additional recognised global standards such as GRI, CDP and TCFD.
  • Risk Horizon is also home to Anthesis Group and Landmark created datasets and business logic supplementing SASB framework data.
  • Data is regularly reviewed and updated by our consultancy team
  • Risk Horizon includes global datasets and indexes covering 50 risk topics from organisations such as Transparency International and International Trade Union Confederation
  • Through our managed service reports, platform data is supplemented by consultant reviewed information from additional resources such as the Business and Human Rights Resource and a range of regulatory databases and digital media sites. This ensures potential compliance and reputational issues are sourced at the earliest stage possible.

Legal context

Risk Horizon’s ESG Screen report is an ideal first step when acting on behalf of a client for PE advisory work or M&A corporate transactions. The report is suitable as an early stage due diligence screening report that frames the key ESG issues that should be considered especially where information is limited for private companies. The following use-cases demonstrate the variety of contexts in which the report can be utilised, as well as how it can be focused into these areas:

Private equity/M&A

  • Quick and efficient risk profile of potential target company
  • Suitable for both public and private companies
  • Focused ESG diligence questions
  • Reduces costs incurred and time taken in diligence process

Capital markets/regulatory

  • Identify ESG risk areas for disclosures
  • Standardised approach with SASB standards aligning with company reporting frameworks
  • Global tool covering 50 risk topics, 85 industries and thousands of data points

Client pitches and client screening

  • Clear and concise layout to present ESG risks and opportunities
  • Objective assessments that can form the basis for the client pitch and from which discussions can be based

As well as the above, the Risk Horizon ESG Screen report can also provide value when assessing any reputational ESG risks when looking to act for potential new clients.
Risk Horizon helps to make sure the right issues are being looked at based on the appropriate geographies and industries of a given company.

By requesting a Risk Horizon report from Landmark, you and your client will benefit from the combination of a world-class specialist ESG consultant, combined with the power of the Risk Horizon software and its global data points to complete the assessment.

For more information, please contact:


Tom Venables
ESG lead consultant – Landmark Information

Landmark Information Group
5-6 Abbey Court
Eagle Way
Exeter
EX2 7HY
E: tom.venables@landmark.co.uk

www.landmark.co.uk