While once a nice-to-have, a comprehensive green policy and the resultant sustainability report have become a regulatory imperative for many clients. Regulators, investors and society have sharpened their focus on sustainability and raised their expectations of what it means to be a good corporate citizen. Against this backdrop, Washington’s cadre of environmental, social and governance (ESG) lawyers has seen demand for their skills and expertise reach hitherto unimagined heights.
Yet many law firms saw the writing on the wall decades ago. The effects of climate change had become material—with climate events such as floods, wildfires and extreme storms impacting markets, supply chains and the bottom line of many clients. Society had become increasingly intolerant of social inequality and racial injustice—an intolerance often propelled by movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. A greater desire for responsible corporate governance led to a focus on how C-suites and boards were not only composed, but also how they conducted themselves—individuals seen to have erred now face ousting and even criminal charges. All the while, regulators have taken notice, increasing the rules and enforcement of ESG factors such as pollution, human trafficking and racial discrimination, to name but a few. The regulatory, economic and societal imperatives of ESG have made good legal counsel an imperative.