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Sustainability and ESG
  1. Sustainability and ESG

    Sustainability as an overarching term has been with us for some time, but with the increasing focus on social responsibility what it actually means in practice differs from client to client and the industry sector they operate within. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria have developed as a way of focusing a business’s sustainability programme and measuring its success in a more transparent way.

    We understand that the emphasis of focus on each of the ESG pillars will vary for our clients. We can use our industry expertise to help clients nuance their sustainability programmes, carry out gap analyses and put in place metrics to measure success.

    We want to help our clients deliver on their sustainability goals by proactively suggesting ways in which we can help them manage risk and embed change both within the organisation and with external stakeholders. We understand it is about action, not just words, and the need for accountability. We work with a number of external experts to assist clients wishing to obtain valuable environmental accreditations and sustainability benchmarking.

    ESG audit

    We can support you from the very beginning of your sustainability journey by working with you on an ESG audit. This assesses current compliance against key areas, existing measures and metrics and provides a gap analysis which will help to inform your overall strategy.

    Other key areas where we can help:

     

    • Environmental

      The importance of our environment and management of climate change is ever increasing and we can help with a number of issues in this area including:

      • Sustainable, environmental and climate change warranties and due diligence in property acquisitions, disposals and lettings
      • Property development obligations with a focus on the environment, nature conservation, sustainability, climate change and modern slavery
      • Energy efficiency clauses including Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES), Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) clauses, as well as Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) clauses
      • Electric vehicle charging leases
      • Modern, Off-site and prefabricated construction methods; design liability in the context of emerging and novel building technologies; and design life requirements and limitation issues
      • Green dispute resolution procedures for construction disputes and sustainability commitments in construction settlement discussions and agreements
      • Compliance with climate change considerations under the Pension Schemes Act 2021
      • Climate and environmental taxes and reliefs
    • Social

      We can advise on a range of areas to help you manage the societal impact your business has on communities, employees and other stakeholders, including:

      • Reward and incentivisation schemes including equity-based incentives
      • Diversity, equality and inclusion metrics including polices and implementation
      • Grievance and whistleblowing polices and employers' duties
      • Modern slavery statements and underlying policies
      • Corporate responsibility and sustainability reports and policies
      • Data protection polices and advice (including GDPR), subject access request handling and cyber security advice
      • Managing criminal liability risk for tax evasion committed by others
      • Social investment tax reliefs
      • CSR programmes and charitable donations
      • Supplier code of ethics and contractual provisions to apply sustainable values
    • Governance

      We can assist you in ensuring compliance and managing risk as a responsible business, including in the following areas:

      • Directors’ duties in considering ESG impact on corporate decisions
      • Reviewing and amending articles of association to include ESG values
      • B Corp status, community interest companies and other social enterprises
      • Business/share values (including COVID-19)
      • Managing shareholder activism and shareholder rights
      • Derivative actions, deadlocked boards, D&O/E&O insurance and litigation funding
      • Investor/buyer due diligence and investment warranties
      • Investment strategies and interplay with pension trustee duties
      • Advice to lenders and borrowers on ESG-based covenants, KPIs and sustainability-linked debt pricing
      • Tax strategy and reporting regimes
      • Tax compliance, for example in relation to external contractor PAYE obligations
      • Anti-bribery and corruption policies and training
      • Commercial contracts and procurement scrutiny
      • Advertising campaigns, green washing and adverse publicity advice
  2. ESG experience

    • Advising a leading distributor of electric vehicles on a range of competition law risks arising from the establishment and expansion of its business, including structuring distribution arrangements across the EU.
    • Advising a luxury retailer on the preparation of its group modern slavery statement, which involved an in-depth investigation into its underlying policies and processes both in the UK and elsewhere across the group’s international operations.
    • Drafting supplementary employee policies to assist companies to implement their ESG strategies, such as enhanced family friendly policies including a carer's leave policy, IVF and assisted conception policy and a menopause policy.
    • Providing construction and banking contract advice to a joint venture working on one of the largest wind farm projects in the World, which will be capable of powering millions of homes.
       
    • Advising a higher education provider on the implementation of modifications to its estate to improve sustainability, including introducing EV charging points, improved insulation, and PV panels.
       
    • Advising a global group of insurance and reinsurance companies on various claims concerning environmental liabilities in environmental insurance and general liability policies.
       
    • Pro bono advice to entrepreneur Mike Fischer of Systems Biology Laboratory and the co-founders of the COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network, on the launch of a voluntary laboratory network to expand COVID-19 testing for GPs and other healthcare workers across the UK.
       
    • Pro bono advice to YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity championing the wellbeing and mental health of young people, on its relocation to new headquarters in London.
       
    • Pro bono advice to the Feel Good Bakery in relation to social franchising of its bakery concept, which sustainably provides employment skills to those neither in work nor education, while also supporting food programmes in economically poorer parts of the World.
       
    • Working closely with the University of Surrey, lawyer-driven charity Lawyers Against Poverty (LAP) and Big Leaf Foundation to support various "legal confidence" sessions run by the University's student LAP members. These interactive sessions aim to provide displaced young people who have sought asylum in the UK with a forum for discussing the challenges they've faced, and to equip them with basic legal and other useful information (prepared by LAP) to help participants integrate with their local community and build up a support network.
  3. Our People

    Partners

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    Managing Associates

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    Senior Associates

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  4. Articles

    Bridging the gender equality gap

    Financing gender equality

    Towards a greener financial system

    Publications

    Business Bridge - Autumn 2020

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