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September 14

ESG: How can junior lawyers make a difference?

Industry Insights

sophie gould

sophie gould

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For the last instalment of our Junior Lawyer Lunches, we were thrilled to be joined by Simone Davidson, Head of LexisPSL Environment & Environmental Law/ESG Specialist, and Simon Colvin, Partner at Weightmans - leading their environment practice and the firm’s Energy and Utilities Sector, as well as their ESG programme.

A formidable duo in the ESG arena, Simone and Simon delivered an insightful session on ESG and its importance for junior lawyers, as well as some practical steps on how you can actively influence your organisation’s ESG strategy.

Here’s a handy summary of our key takeaways from the day, from why junior lawyers should get involved with discussions around ESG, to how you can drive the agenda and contribute to real positive change.

Why should junior lawyers get involved with ESG strategy?

Following Lexis Nexis’ recent report, ‘Implementing the E of ESG: why in-house lawyers are instrumental’, it’s clear that there are many reasons for lawyers to push the ESG agenda.

Firstly, it’s worth thinking about your motives from a personal standpoint, and who wouldn’t want to influence positive change within their organisation? The current climate issues are at the forefront of many people’s minds, and by influencing policy and strategy as a junior lawyer, you have the chance to make ESG a reality, rather than just another tick-box exercise.

It’s also a great way for you to make an impact within your organisation, and show your value. In recent years, ESG has now become central to all businesses’ thinking, especially when it comes to overall strategy and assessing any potential risks. It’s during this process that you can really add value by advising on legal aspects of policy and governance, as well as how this can all be executed in the best way possible.

How can junior lawyers drive the ESG agenda?

When it comes to pushing the ESG agenda, here are three effective ways to drive the conversation:

Make yourself heard

It may seem simple, but by speaking up and letting your colleagues know that you’re interested and passionate about ESG policy and strategy, you’re taking the first step. This will enable you to join any existing conversations surrounding ESG within your business and, where these conversations aren’t already happening, will help to drive the agenda and motivate employees to talk about their shared experiences. The more people in a business who are openly passionate about ESG and climate change, the bigger the chance that real steps will be taken.

Research

We all know that lawyers have to research certain queries from time-to-time (perhaps more often than we’d like to admit), and ESG should be no different. Researching the topic and having a wider perspective is incredibly valuable when it comes to getting involved with ESG strategy and helping to implement incoming legislation.

Collaboration

Lastly, whether you’re working in an in-house legal team or a larger law firm, it’s fundamental to interact with stakeholders across the whole business. Firstly engaging with employees who share your passion, but also by speaking with those who are less interested in ESG. Asking the hard, uncomfortable questions around why certain things aren’t being done (or why some things are still happening…) is essential to bring ESG to the forefront of your colleague’s minds.

As a junior lawyer, you have the chance to make ESG a reality, rather than just another tick-box exercise.

Virtual Lunch Attendee

What can junior lawyers contribute to discussions around ESG?

So you’re passionate and have taken steps to drive the agenda, but feel unsure on what you can contribute to the discussion? Here are some key ways you and your legal team can add value and credibility to your law firm or organisation’s conversations around ESG.

Strategy, communications and disclosure

It’s important for lawyers to lean in, advise and help shape aspects of any strategy or policy related to ESG. This is particularly the case when it comes to protecting your company from greenwashing in any marketing/PR materials by providing support with terminology, sustainability mapping, transparency and accountability.

By getting involved (as much as possible) with conversations on the wider ESG strategy, you will also be able to help your organisation to credibly work towards achieving net zero. For example, you could support your organisation by suggesting the inclusion of climate clauses in third party contracts, ensuring supplier sustainability in the long-term.

Risk and governance

By identifying any rules and policies around ESG that should be in place, you can help your organisation to avoid breaking any relevant legislation. In a financial space, for example, this could be knowing what green bonds, green lines, and sustainability links are (don’t worry, we just had to Google these too… as mentioned previously, regular research is essential). By helping your organisation to adapt their business strategy in response to certain increases in hard law and the evolving legislative environment, you can really show your value and develop strong internal relationships.

So, what now?

Addressing climate change, as well as other environmental and social issues, has become a business priority for organisation’s and law firms all over the UK. Local, national, and international initiatives are pushing businesses to address the issue by setting specific targets, but many feel unsure of the actual practical steps they need to take.

It’s now time for lawyers to take action and make ESG a reality, helping organisations to identify what they should be doing and why it is important, whilst explaining how they can maximise opportunities and minimise any risks.

Meaningful action on climate change requires a collaborative spirit - across the economy, across different industries, and throughout each and every business. No one team, certainly no one individual, can do it all. But businesses that collaborate can make meaningful change.

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