Linklaters, the UN Global Compact and UC Berkeley School of Law launch guide to help General Counsels drive the corporate sustainability agenda

Linklaters, the United Nations Global Compact and UC Berkeley School of Law have launched the Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability Version 2.0  (Guide v2.0)  to help General Counsels (GCs) drive change and meaningful conversation around corporate sustainability issues in their organisations.

Since the first guide was published in 2015, corporate sustainability has leapt up the commercial and political agenda. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are becoming important to long-term business success and are increasingly the subject of incoming regulatory and investor requirements. Boards, executive teams and other senior management are coming under increasing scrutiny.

As part of this, the role of GCs is also fast evolving in response to increased stakeholder focus on sustainability risks and opportunities, and calls for greater consideration of ESG factors in investment decisions.

The guide, with the support and guidance from an advisory group of GCs from Nestlé and other companies, provides practical tips on how to harness their position to integrate corporate sustainability policies into their organisation’s DNA.

The content covers five key areas vital to navigating the changing corporate sustainability landscape:

  • Corporate Sustainability and Business Integrity - How can GCs embed corporate values and responsible business conduct within their organisations to help ensure corporate sustainability?
  • Corporate Sustainability and Fiduciary Duties - How can businesses successfully integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into decision-making processes?
  • Human Rights and Supply Chain Diligence - How can GCs respond to ever greater calls to consider the sustainability of their supply chains by conducting human rights due diligence?
  • Corporate Sustainability and Grievance Mechanisms - How can grievance mechanisms form part of responsible business processes and contribute to securing corporate sustainability?
  • Challenges to Corporate Sustainability - Managing a Crisis - How can GCs use sustainability principles to help prevent, prepare for, navigate through and recover from a crisis?

Charlie Jacobs, Senior Partner and Chairman at Linklaters LLP, said:

“At Linklaters, we are committed to the UN Global Compact principles, and as part of this, we see a real potential for businesses to be a force for good. Corporate sustainability is attracting increasing attention as companies face growing interest and scrutiny on their policies and where this lands within their fiduciary duties. GCs are well placed and equipped to facilitate real change and push the issues up the agenda as companies grapple with growing expectations, impending regulation and reporting requirements.

Guide v2.0 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.”

Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, said:

“The United Nations Global Compact works with businesses of all sizes around the world to move corporate sustainability and UN values into the mainstream. As the role of GCs moves beyond legal compliance and towards corporate sustainability, the UN Global Compact sees them as key change agents with the ability to create long-term value for a company.

The legislative and sustainability landscape is evolving with the introduction of anti-corruption and modern slavery legislation across various jurisdictions and greater emphasis being placed on ESG considerations by boards and investors. We hope Guide v2.0 the guide provides a source of reference for lawyers navigating the complex ESG landscape and inspires GCs to embrace their crucial role in advancing the corporate sustainability agenda in their organisations.”

Amelia Miazad, Professor and Founding Director, Business in Society Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, said:

“Throughout history, academics have influenced how companies and markets operate, and we are yet again at a crucial inflection point. Society’s expectations of companies are in flux, requiring us to reimagine corporate purpose. This current shift from short-term profit maximization to long-term sustainability means that inside counsel today must not only manage legal risk, but also navigate environmental, social, and governance issues that pose ethical and reputational risks.”