10 December 2021

ESG: ‘The need to respond is immediate’

Dominic Carman

As ESG impacts every aspect of commercial activity, Dominic Carman examines how the offshore elite is responding to increasing client demand and sustained investment pressure

ESG was the acronym of 2021: environmental, social and governance issues became universally recognised as a key priority for every organisation. But how they are perceived and what they mean in practice remain in a state of flux. Without a single standard definition or a commonly agreed international set of rules, ESG agendas are being set by reference to myriad criteria. For offshore law firms, and for their clients, ESG has therefore become a ubiquitous umbrella term to define a broad range of objectives, commitments and standards, which they increasingly target, support and endorse.

It’s much the same onshore. Browse through the websites of a dozen global law firms and you will find a dozen different visions outlining how they are seeking to combat climate change and embrace ESG. Invariably long on aspiration, but sometimes short on substance, a host of admirable intentions is not always matched by specific details of execution – at least, not yet. The best of them convey the right messages to clients.

In its latest environment report, Latham cleverly combines commitment with commercial opportunity: ‘Our ESG team serves as the centre of a universe that addresses complex legal needs and business challenges, regardless of a client’s industry, size, location or situation. Our lawyers are genuine superconnectors, mobilizing across practices to help clients take advantage of ESG opportunities, manage ESG risks, and drive value through ESG strategies.’ Juxtaposed with ESG, the trigger words are carefully chosen: opportunities, risks and strategies. The future of ESG will certainly feature all of them, creating significant demand for ESG specialism in law firms.

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