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WATCH: Charlie Jacobs, Tom Shropshire, Vanessa Havard-Williams and Rachel Barrett outline how GCs can deliver value through a focus on corporate sustainability

‘This Guide responds to the widespread growth in interest in sustainability and the growing demand from the legal community for practical guidance on how to integrate sustainability considerations into business as usual.’

Charlie Jacobs, Senior Partner and Chairman at Linklaters

We believe the case is made. It is now time for GCs to deliver upon it.

We believed it was true when we published our 2015 Guide, and believe that it continues to be true today: GCs are better placed, better equipped and increasingly able to drive change and deliver value to their organizations through an increased focus on corporate sustainability.

When we explained this in our 2015 Guide, it was clear that we had struck a chord that was resonating. GCs were enthusiastic about corporate sustainability, but they also highlighted the need for practical guidance on how to embed it in their organisation’s DNA. What do good practices look like, and how do you achieve tangible results?

Explore the guide

This 2019 Guide seeks to support GCs by examining five areas in more detail, providing practical tips and strategies for success inspired by the GCs who participated in its development.

You can read the executive summary and key takeaways from the guide by clicking the icon below. A full version of the Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability Version 2.0, along with version 1.0, is available to download here.

Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability 2019 Summary


Corporate sustainability and business integrity

Many organizations aspire to take an approach to doing business that ensures not only compliance with laws and regulations, but also a commitment to “do the right thing”. Often the first step in operationalizing business integrity is articulating and communicating corporate values and behavioural expectations which can serve as a “lighthouse”, especially in times of crisis.

  • Generating “buy-in”: Value-driven compliance programmes
  • Strong leadership: Setting the right tone from the top
  • Fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement
  • Problem-spotting: The role of grievance mechanisms and whistleblowing
  • How are we doing? Measuring the effectiveness of compliance culture

Corporate sustainability and fiduciary duties

Concepts of fiduciary duty or investor duties, including loyalty, care and prudence, exist in most jurisdictions. Increasingly, investors, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders are seeking the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decision-making processes based on the notion that sustainable decision-making and investing supports responsible business practices.

  • A shifting regulatory landscape
  • Clarifying expectations: Consider an ESG policy
  • Up to speed? Help fiduciaries stay one step ahead
  • Aim high: Continuously improve and incentivize ESG-based governance

Human rights and supply chain diligence

Traditional methods of supply chain risk management have focused on commercial aspects of procurement and on contingency planning. However, against a backdrop of increasingly globalized and complex supply arrangements, stakeholder expectations have evolved and the regulator landscape is shifting.

  • Know your supply chain: Map suppliers to better understand human rights risks
  • A fresh perspective: Conducting due diligence through a human rights lens
  • What next? Addressing impacts

Corporate sustainability and grievance mechanisms

A grievance mechanism is a non-judicial process established or supported by a company through which complaints or concerns about business integrity, compliance, human rights and other issues can be raised. Grievance mechanisms can take many forms, adopt a broad scope or focus on a specific issue and can serve a range of purposes.

  • The business case: An important part of the risk management toolkit
  • Where to start? Designing a grievance mechanism
  • Listen carefully: The important role of stakeholder engagement
  • Take stock: Measure effectiveness and make changes

Challenges to corporate sustainability — managing a crisis

Many organizations face unexpected challenges from time to time, but a “crisis” can be defined as a sudden or previously unidentified risk that threatens to significantly damage an organization’s economic value or licence to operate. Crises can have broad roots, often driven at least in part by failure to operate ethically and sustainably.

  • Building resilience: Establish strong culture and values
  • Plan ahead: How will you respond?
  • The first 72 hours: Effective management of the initial response
  • Moving on: Investigation, reporting and remediation
  • Do not waste a valuable opportunity: Learn lessons towards continuous improvement

<a name="guides"; style="text-decoration: none;"> Read the Guides for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability</a>

Version 2.0 (PDF)

Version 2.0

Version 2.0 (Digital)

Guide for GCs

Version 1.0

Version 1.0

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