29 May 2019 at 09:36 BST

British royal sets general counsels on “misson”

Prince Charles tells general counsels to act on climate change, flags issue of litigation being used increasingly as a form of activism.


General counsel “really have no excuse” when it comes to tackling the growing threat of climate change as they are uniquely placed to coordinate their organisations' response, the Prince of Wales general counsel.


The Prince Charles' Accounting for Sustainability project, set up to inspire finance leaders to adopt sustainable and resilient business models, has teamed up with the Association of Corporate Counsel, which has more than 45,000 members, to encourage general counsels to act on environmental, social and governance “missions.” In a video message played at the ACC's Global General Counsel Summit in London, Prince Charles said there was no need to choose between being profitable or doing the right thing. Investors, he said, are increasingly asking companies to provide information in their financial filings on how sustainability performance affects organisations' strategy, business model and bottom line. “Needless to say, ladies and gentlemen, general counsel has an absolutely crucial role to play in ensuring that the quality of information meets these increasing demands,” Prince Charles said.

Litigation as activism

Prince Charles explained, “Further, such is the profound frustration over the lack of serious concerted action to prevent catastrophe that climate change litigation is becoming an increasingly common form of activism. Legal cases seeking to hold businesses and governments to account are becoming more prevalent... General counsel's role in helping companies demonstrate that they are seriously working towards mitigating climate impact could play an important part in helping to manage the risks from current and future litigation.” A survey conducted by the ACC on corporate social responsibility shows that 93 per cent of chief legal officers lead, influence or contribute to the company's corporate sustainability efforts where the company has a sustainability plan. Nearly half of respondents said their businesses did not have a corporate sustainability plan; a quarter said they were developing one. Reputation was the biggest driver for organisations to develop a plan. The message can be viewed in full here.


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