Simmons & Simmons hires new global ESG head from Morgan Stanley in London

Sonali Siriwardena was head of sustainability regulation at the bank’s investment management arm
Headshot of Sonali Siriwardena

Sonali Siriwardena Image courtesy of Simmons & Simmons

Simmons & Simmons has hired Morgan Stanley Investment Management's former head of sustainability regulation to lead the firm’s global environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy.

Sonali Siriwardena joins the firm in London, where she will work with clients on ESG matters and help develop the firm’s wider ESG policy so that it is aligned across practice areas and is incorporated into all client advice.

Justin Taylor, Simmons’ senior partner, said: “This is the latest significant strategic move that Simmons has made in 2022… the creation of a global head of ESG role is a clear demonstration of our commitment to furnishing clients with next generation ESG advice.”

He added: “Sonali will be responsible for weaving together the areas of ESG expertise where Simmons has a market leading reputation and further developing our peoples’ ESG reflex.”

Siriwardena spent more than a decade at Morgan Stanley in a range of roles, most recently leading sustainability at the bank’s investment management arm. She was responsible for the firm’s sustainable investing policy and the implementation of ESG regulation. Prior to her time at Morgan Stanley, Siriwardena worked in-house as a solicitor at Barclays having joined from White & Case, where she was an associate for two-and-a-half years.

Siriwardena said: “ESG is no longer a tick box exercise and should be the cornerstone of company operations across all industries and sectors. My business and legal background has given me a clear view of how sustainability regulation and policy impact company strategy and stock valuations.”

Her arrival follows the appointment of Sophia Adams Bhatti as the firm’s head of purpose and impact back in 2019. 

Earlier this month, a Lex Mundi study highlighted that GCs face increased pressure on sustainability issues as they try to balance stakeholder ESG demands with their companies’ broader business needs.

Underscoring the increased client focus on ESG, Dentons in February hired Hogan Lovells’ sustainability head Aragon St-Charles to lead its global ESG efforts. Earlier that month, Australian firm Gilbert + Tobin also poached Baker McKenzie’s global climate change head Ilona Millar to help clients with ESG risk, while last November Debevoise & Plimpton hired sustainability expert Ulysses Smith as its first senior ESG adviser in New York. 

Meantime, in-house counsel believe ESG-related disputes are likely to feature heavily in future litigation cases, according to a February report from Byfield Consultancy.


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