‘Two years ago, if you asked top firms about their ESG credentials they would tell you about the beach clean-up they organised or how they don’t use plastic bags. Now everyone’s got an ESG website and I’m sure many have made statements they wish they hadn’t.’
The words of Ben McQuhae, founder of specialist sustainability law firm Ben McQuhae & Co, speak of the conundrum facing pundits attempting to scrutinise the environmental, social and governance (ESG) bona fides of the top 25 Legal Business 100 and top 25 Global London firms. Continue reading “The ESG report – Overview: Turning on a greenback”
It was uncharacteristically decisive. Rapidly after Russia did the unthinkable and invaded Ukraine on 24 February, many international law firms with Moscow operations hurried out strongly-worded statements at the behest of a hysterical legal press. Linklaters was the first of the major players to react, announcing on 4 March that it would ‘wind down’ its Moscow office, and vowed not to represent any clients connected to the Russian regime. Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) promised the same, even swearing to withdraw ‘as quickly as we can’, while a host of firms ominously, and vaguely, pledged to ‘review the situation’.
The next few months saw many firms ostensibly live up to promises, albeit at varying speeds. Some favoured a hard and fast exit, and some went as far as to cease acting for any Russian nationals, irrespective of perceived guilt or innocence connected with the war. Fewer took more time to gently spin out their Moscow hubs to become new separate entities, with an optimistic view to reconnecting if the global situation ever makes that politically viable again. Continue reading “The ESG report – Russia: All bite, no bark”
‘I’ve acted for every villain you can name’: Lessons in ESG from its trailblazers – and how to dodge the greenwashing bullet
Big Law came late to the ESG party compared to regulated financial services industries, with many law firms only getting the memo as recently as the pandemic.
At the forefront of this movement for approaching 20 years are professor Paul Watchman, senior UN legal adviser and former Freshfields partner, and Paul Clements-Hunt, founder of The Blended Capital Group, a former adviser to the UN on sustainable finance and the person who coined the term ESG. Legal Business sat down with these trailblazers to discuss why lawyers must embrace good corporate citizenship. Continue reading “‘I’ve acted for every villain you can name’: Lessons in ESG from its trailblazers – and how to dodge the greenwashing bullet”
ESG imperatives have never been more at the fore for partners, general counsel (GCs), or indeed any professional with exposure to related reputational risk. A webinar, hosted by Legal Business and sponsored by Travers Smith brought together partners, experts from in-house, the Bar and a crisis-management guru for a diverse and challenging debate on the ESG-related risks – and rewards – at the top of the agenda.
Nathalie Tidman, Legal Business: What are the main ESG risks that corporates are facing right now? Continue reading “The ESG report – Event: Advising and acting for clients on ESG-related risks”
If the Ukraine invasion and its ensuing debates around right to representation inflicted a bruise on the legal profession’s reputation, recent professional misconduct episodes have surely left a greater wound.
In early May, a Twitter post authored by a Cardiff restaurant owner went viral, containing claims that a group of Ince lawyers had behaved inappropriately towards a waitress. Continue reading “Gerrard revelations and Ince restaurant-gate pose ethical quandaries for profession”
‘Holding yourself accountable’: Squire Patton Boggs commits to net zero by 2035 with new ESG strategy
Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) has become the latest firm to wade into the thorny environmental, social and governance debate, unveiling a UK ESG strategy with a pledge to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2035.
The Cleveland-headquartered firm, which has UK offices in London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, is targeting a 15% reduction year on year, which it hopes will see emissions fall by 70% by the end of the decade. Continue reading “‘Holding yourself accountable’: Squire Patton Boggs commits to net zero by 2035 with new ESG strategy”
As part of an ongoing series of thought leadership roundtables and webinars we have been hosting with Paul Hastings before, during and after lockdown, we were delighted to finally have an in-person debate at Paul Hastings’ London office in November. We gathered together leading general counsel (GCs) and Paul Hastings partners to discuss the role the legal team within corporates plays in advising the board on major risks – particularly environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns – without stifling healthy growth.
The session examined how businesses are facing a significant number of challenges and opportunities, and the senior in-house counsel present discussed some of the specific challenges they are facing, including re-aligning to e-commerce, re-establishing supply chains, taking advantage of excess liquidity to drive strategic M&A, responding to new ESG demands from investors and stakeholders and responding to an evolving legal and regulatory landscape. Continue reading “The ESG debate: Balancing growth and risk”
As the COP26 continues its doings, one of the talks of town in the legal finance world this autumn is that about sustainability. Newspapers open up with announcements about investment funds gone green, social or sustainable, about private equity firms deciding to raise new funds to exclusively invest into climate-related issues, and about companies and firms setting up new cross-border strategies aimed at complying with ESG – environmental, social and governance – objectives. Consulting firms are issuing longest-ever reports about their ESG compromises and their commitment towards UN sustainable development goals. Legal and services firms are setting up cross-industry teams aimed to cope with the various deeds the market is looking at and will request, it seems, quite immediately. And yet behind all this, how will the legal finance world be affected? Do we need to change and adapt? True to sceptics, we have been doing renewable and green deals for many years, so what is the difference?
We can split this modern ESG thinking in at least two initial settings: looking inwardly towards our firms and institutions, to see what we need to adjust internally to progress towards ESG objectives, for the people in our firms, for the society we live in and for everybody’s future. It is not so much the legal services we can provide to our clients, but rather our commitment towards our own people and the societies we live in, towards the next generations and the planet. And looking outwardly, to see how we can, or need, to adjust our legal advice to the new requirements of private equity houses, banks and other financial institutions. Continue reading “Sponsored briefing: ESG, the regulatory battle is coming. Are the legal finance teams truly ready?”