Alston & Bird has created an Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Advisory Group to assist boards of directors and managers of public companies in understanding the evolving ESG landscape, including the growing prominence of ESG investing, environmental, and social risk and compliance.
Spanning several Alston & Bird offices and practices – including structured finance, alternative investments, corporate governance, environmental, real estate, and corporate trusts – the ESG Advisory Group is led by partners Doug Arnold (Atlanta); Andrew Petersen, James Fisher, and James Spencer (London); partners Tim Selby and Richard Simonds and counsel Troy Doll and Robin Regan (New York); and partners Dave Brown, Julie Mediamolle, Kevin Minoli, and Rebecca Valentino (Washington, D.C.).
“ESG has become inextricably woven into the fabric of how companies do business,” said Petersen. “Among its many drivers are changing investor preferences and increased recognition by C-suite executives that a strong ESG proposition may help enhance a company’s long-term success.”
Giving greater voice to ESG principles, the U.S. Business Roundtable issued a statement in 2019 that moves away from shareholder primacy and places business’s commitment to a broad range of stakeholders – including investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers, and supporting outside communities – at the forefront of American business goals.
ESG issues have also been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, as noted earlier this year by S&P Global in a study illustrating the “materiality of environmental and social risk factors, along with the importance of strong governance.”
As investors increasingly incorporate ESG criteria into their investment assessments and valuation decisions, the new advisory group – which is part of Alston & Bird’s Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability Team – will help guide companies in implementing strong sustainability programs that serve as key indicators of reliable financial performance. The group will also offer counsel to assist with demand from certain institutional investors and regulators for enhanced ESG disclosure results, whether in the form of stand-alone corporate social responsibility reports or alongside quarterly and annual financial reporting obligations.
“COVID-19 could prove to be a major turning point for investors with ESG mandates to take a deep dive into the track record of a company ahead of their capital allocation decisions,” said Gorsen, head of Alston & Bird’s Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability Team. “The collective skills of our lawyers and policy advisors, who have decades of experience advising on issues related to the environment, litigation, green funds, and board governance, give us a strong platform for advising clients on the challenges and opportunities in addressing corporate-related ESG commitments.”