20 Nov 2020

Clifford Chance's senior partner to lead firmwide sustainability taskforce

Magic Circle firm recognises 'tidal wave' of pressure for businesses to step up ESG record

Jeroen Ouwehand

Clifford Chance has set up an environmental, social and governance (ESG) taskforce led by senior partner Jeroen Ouwehand to boost its client work in the field as well as its own sustainability efforts.

The move comes hard on the heels of the appointment by Baker McKenzie of its first chief sustainability officer and reflects the growing influence of the ESG agenda within international business.

The new ESG Board has around 20 members drawn from across the firm and will oversee the work of more than 400 lawyers and senior personnel already tackling aspects of ESG, including renewable energy, clean hydrogen, climate change, business and human rights, and corporate governance, according to the firm.

Ouwehand said: "The tidal wave of investor, customer, and stakeholder pressure for a more sustainable future creates huge opportunities and risks for businesses. This shift is as much about human rights and inclusion as it is about taking care of our environment. And it is not about being perfect today, but how to be better tomorrow.”

The Magic Circle UK firm can point to a range of legal work it has already undertaken that falls under the ESG umbrella.

This includes last December advising Shell on a sustainability linked $10bn revolving credit facility and easyJet on its strategy to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used during its flights; while in February it advised Goldman Sachs on a landmark Ecuador bond to fund social housing.

Meanwhile, in July it laid claim to be the first major firm to launch global and regional inclusion targets covering gender, ethnicity and LGBT+ inclusion and in September it was one of a host of law firms to endorse a United Nations statement on co-operation in support of sustainable development goals.

Recent initiatives by other international firms include the appointment by Baker McKenzie of senior Paris-based luxury law specialist Alyssa Auberger as its first chief sustainability officer and the establishment by Herbert Smith Freehills of regional staff forums in a bid to improve the ability of employees outside the partnership to help shape its strategy.

Further reading

Doing the right thing will also be good business - Tony Williams on why law firms should embrace an ESG agenda which has been supercharged by Covid-19