De Berti Jacchia becomes first Italian firm to partner with global ESG standards body

Milan practice signs up to Global Reporting Initiative as part of wider sustainability drive

De Berti Jacchia Franchini Forlani has become the first Italian law firm to sign up as an official partner of ESG standards body the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The the 25-partner firm, which has offices in Milan, Rome, Brussels and Moscow, has also published a sustainability report and set up a team of lawyers and chartered accountants tasked with improving the firm’s ESG credentials and coordinating its advisory work in this increasingly influential field.

The GRI’s framework is among the most widely used by multinationals, governments and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It uses a system of modular standards to measure an organisation’s performance across a range of ESG-focused areas, from human rights to environmental due diligence, in a way that is comparable and transparent.

While a number of law firms are likely to use the GRI’s standards as the basis for their ESG reporting, De Berti Jacchia and global giant Baker McKenzie are the only law firms listed among the GRI’s more than 500 community members across the world.

Senior partner Roberto Jacchia said membership of the GRI would enable the firm to “deepen our knowledge of best practices in the sector of sustainability, positioning us within the organisation that has defined the most widely used and authoritative international reporting standards”.

He added: “Our attention to sustainability topics is continuous. We have created and are regularly updating a collection of all the relevant European and national legislative and regulatory tools, and we are ready to assist our clients in these new challenges of the near future.”

Julia Hayhoe, managing partner of Hayhoe Consulting and former chief strategy officer at Baker McKenzie, said: “By joining GRI, De Berti Jacchia demonstrate they take being a responsible business seriously, through committing to its sustainability reporting standards. 

"However, sustainability and ESG reporting frameworks and metrics are prolific, and hence notorious for being an alphabet soup that is hard to navigate. The key point for firms, is to make sure they incorporate sustainability into their strategies, so it informs mindsets, decision making and impact, rather than sitting in a side initiative.”

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Read the GLP Timeline ESG and the Law

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Last September, dozens of law firm leaders from across the world endorsed a United Nations statement on co-operation in support of sustainable development goals.

And in June more than 20 law firms, including Baker McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Shearman & Sterling and Slaughter & May, committed to accelerating the reduction of firm-wide greenhouse gas emissions as members of the newly formed Net Zero Lawyers Alliance.

An increasing number of firms are also positioning themselves to provide ESG advice to their clients. They include BonelliErede, which launched a dedicated ESG group last December and Debevoise & Plimpton, which hired sustainability expert and former Linklaters lawyer Ulysses Smith as its first senior ESG advisor in New York.

However, some law firms are potentially not moving fast enough on ESG, with more than half saying they need to ramp up their ESG services to meet customer demand in a study by Landmark Information published last November. The survey also found that more than a third of firms (36%) were currently unable to meet that increased demand.

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