International Law

The New Normal of ESG Across Borders: Opportunities and Challenges for In-House Counsel

February 10 - 11, 2021 | 11:00am EDT (Day 1 & 2)

About the Virtual Conference

The state of New York, on December 9, 2020, announced that its pension fund with over $226 billion in assets would divest its oil and gas stocks in companies that, in its view, contribute to global warming. The announcement emphatically highlights how ESG factors (Environmental, Social and Governance) across borders represent business risks but also opportunities for companies, their stockholders, and their other stakeholders. In-house legal departments are the first line of defense to re-orient business operations to address global ESG issues and to identify risks. These challenges, risks and opportunities are creating additional demands on legal departments with constrained resources as they navigate this “New Normal” in addition to their traditional responsibilities to stockholders.  This two-day conference webinar will provide in-depth critical analysis through three tracks that efficiently canvas each of the ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ elements. Through these three tracks, the webinar will identify, explore, and evaluate key areas of relevance to in-house counsel wanting to navigate the numerous complex legal and operational issues raised by ESG in jurisdictions around the globe.

What to Expect

This two-day cutting-edge conference webinar will provide opportunities for-in-depth analysis of these issues through three tracks of interactive panel discussions that canvas each of the ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ elements, including how COVID-19 is accelerating ESG trends. Key areas of relevance to in-house counsel wanting to navigate the numerous complex legal and operational issues raised by ESG in jurisdictions around the globe, including NGO and government stakeholder perspectives, will also be examined. Critical issues will include:

The E Track:

  1. Rejoining the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Looking at the Green New Deal: Public Policy and Legal Implications for Corporate Counsel Climate change is one of the biggest existential challenges of the 21st Century.  One of the very first actions by the Biden Administration will be rejoining the Paris Climate Change Accord.  One of the first domestic initiatives of the new Climate Czar John Kerry will be to assess which parts of the Green New Deal will be advanced.  These actions will have profound regulatory implications for the business community and will provide a wide range of interesting opportunities for innovation and business expansion.  This will require the active engagement of in-house counsel to guide corporations in mitigating regulatory impacts and taking full advantage of economic opportunities.  This program will give participants the tools to embrace this brave new world.
  2. Best Practices in Corporate Environmental Sustainability: Case Studies Despite the systematic dismantling of the federal environmental regulatory infrastructure during the past four years, corporate America has been quietly and methodically making great strides in developing and restructuring corporate environmental sustainability programs because it advanced both corporate social responsibility and enterprise profitability.  This has required the direct and active involvement of in-house counsel to survey the broad spectrum of regulatory constraints, liability considerations, capital markets and tax and other financial incentives.  This program will provide in-house counsel with a best practices’ comparison of various corporate approaches to help guide management sustainability initiatives. 
  3. Innovation in Reversing Climate Change: Business Opportunities for Socially Responsible Corporations  The accelerating transition from a fossil-based global economy to an Information Age powered by wind and solar renewable energy, bio-fuels, carbon removal and energy efficiency has created a business climate with unlimited potential for innovation and economic development.  In addition, the pressing need to develop adaptive strategies to counteract already existing global threats such as wildfires, sea level rise, and enhanced storm events has forced communities to develop significant adaptation plans and land use changes.  This will profoundly affect corporate business development strategies and spawn enterprise opportunities.  This will require the active involvement of in-house counsel to guide management initiatives and navigate a changing regulatory environment.

The S Track:

  1. Social Justice and Impact in Corporate Behavior: Companies, their boards and executives are at the forefront of some of the most important social issues of our time and through new influential communication platforms, those issues can easily reach the masses and impact key decision-makers. As the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Report points out, silence on social justice issues is not an option for companies that want to attract or retain employees, clients, and investors. This panel will analyze how corporate social activism and changes in social expectations about corporate behavior have practical consequences in the way companies do business, what in-house counsel need to consider helping their companies avoid being exploitative or as opportunists and how these new means of communication are creating pressure to change laws and make new policies addressing social issues that impact their company’s operations.
  2. ESG Challenges of Privacy, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence: Avoiding Discriminatory Impact: Sure, the law requires data protection safeguards and the costs associated with them, but there are business mandates for them as well.  Customers and business partners increasingly seek out for organizations that will be good data stewards because their end users demand it. This panel will explore how to get business and finance buy in to privacy and cybersecurity initiatives by focusing on opportunities so that budget to overcome challenges may be more readily available. In addition, organizations increasingly utilize AI platforms and tools as well as other forms of machine learning.  Yet AI tools may result in discriminatory impact, such as ruling out minority candidates for employment, or digital redlining of certain groups or neighborhoods in housing.  This interactive panel will analyze business and management use cases for AI, machine learning and blockchain as well as the legal and organizational protections necessary to leverage them optimally while mitigating liability risks or investigating and remediating discriminatory impacts of uses of AI
  3. COVID-19 as an ESG Trigger Point: While clichéd to say the Coronavirus has changed everything, it has increased responsibilities on the Law Department. This highly interactive panel will explore the business reputation challenges and potential crisis management challenges arising from anti-vaccination movements and social media associated with COVID-19 vaccine manufacture and distribution; employee retention and morale in the face of employer mandates for employees to receive the vaccine; return-to-work liability waivers and surveillance of remote work; addressing workplace safety in a way that can aid employee retention; and the continued safety-net aspect of business interruption insurance where carriers are increasing denying coverage for virus-related shutdowns.

The G Track:

  1. Director Liability, the Business Judgment Rule and Oversight of Corporate Purpose: Are the days of the unassailable protection of the Business Judgment Rule when it comes to outside director accountability as the US District Court for the Northern District of California held in in re Wells Fargo & Company Shareholder Derivative Litigation ruled in 2017? This case was part of a trend stretching back many years warning that directors who, as one judge wrote, take an “ostrich-like approach” to oversight, may be held to violate their fiduciary obligations.  What are the new ESG responsibilities of directors when corporate purpose goals are moving beyond shareholder profit? In addition, boards and C-Suite personnel face increasing public exposure and perhaps legal and regulatory risk, if their companies are seen as complicit in child slave labor or other labor practices that violate international norms and laws. This panel will examine these risks. Learn what these issues portend for outside director liability, responsibilities of directors and the C-Suite to set the ESG tone for the company, potential effects on directors’ willingness to serve and how directors and the corporations on whose boards they sit can manage these risks and new responsibilities.
  2. Disclosure of ESG Performance Indicators to Investors, Regulators and Other Key Stakeholders. From the Equator Principles to sustainability-linked finance, global ESG performance increasingly affects how key stakeholders interact with companies. In-house counsel now needs to know what the key performance indicators and disclosure obligations and best practices are to meet the expectations and requirements of global investors, regulators, governments, and other key stakeholders.  Are there generally accepted standards and requirements, including the use of cautionary statements in ESG disclosures.? What is the impact of ESG performance in assessing company valuations, access to capital and risk assessments in cross-border M&A transactions?  What is the likelihood of any ESG-related legislation and regulation for companies and for institutional investors and asset managers?
  3. A Primer on Governance ESG Policies and Procedures: This panel will provide critical intelligence on the current state of companies embracing “stakeholder” governance after the CEO pledge in 2019, the 2020 Davos Manifesto, the World Economics Forum’s report on ESG reporting metrics and US state benefits corporation laws and oversight. Take away key learnings on implementation of organizational ESG policies and practices, compliance registers, management plans and codes of conduct. Obtain the latest updates on the oversight obligations, socializing those obligations within the company and documentation of goals, standards, and progress in meeting them.

Why Attend

This unique, interactive conference focuses on practical take-aways, providing critical intelligence from thought leaders on legal and policy ESG trends. It offers numerous opportunities to share experiences amongst a mix of in-house and outside counsel experts, all in a compact format for corporate counsel to navigate the legal and business opportunities, risks, and challenges of ESG initiatives. In addition, registrants will receive complimentary access to the Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award Ceremony to be presented on February 11.

Who Should Attend?

Professionals (attorneys and non-attorneys) involved or interested in the current state of ESG, including:

  • In-House Counsel seeking to enhance their knowledge about ESG-related risks and opportunities for companies;
  • Law Firm attorneys wanting to learn about the in-house perspective on ESG-related matters; and
  • ABA Members seeking to gain an understanding of ESG and sustainability issues.

Agenda | February 10  – February 11, 2021

Day One | Wednesday, February 10

All times below are in EDT.

9:30 am – 10:45 am
Networking
: Connecting and Making New Contacts

11:00 am –11:30 am
Keynote: Craig Glidden, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, General Motors (confirmed)

11:30 am– 12:00 pm
Plenary: Leading Voices ESG

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Learning Over Lunch
: Guest Speaker

Breakout Sessions

12:30pm – 2:00 pm
E Track: “Rejoining the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Looking at the Green New Deal: Public Policy and Legal Implications for Corporate Counsel”

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
S Track:
“Social Justice and Impact in Corporate Behavior”

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
G Track: “A Primer on Governance ESG Policies and Procedures”

2:00 pm – 2:15pm
Health Break

Breakout Sessions

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
E Track:
“Best Practices in Corporate Environmental Sustainability: Case Studies”

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
S Track
: “ESG Challenges of Privacy, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence: Avoiding Discriminatory Impact”

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
G Track: “Disclosure of ESG Performance Indicators to Investors, Regulators and Other key Stakeholders”

4:00 pm – 4:15 pm
Health Break

Breakout Sessions

4:15pm – 5:45 pm
E Track: “Innovation in Reversing Climate Change: Business Opportunities for Socially Responsible Corporations”

4:15pm – 5:45 pm
S Track:
“COVID-19 as an ESG Trigger Point”

4:15pm – 5:45 pm
G Track:
“Director Liability, the Business Judgment Rule and Oversight of Corporate Purpose”

5:45 pm – 6:15 pm
Networking: Schmoozing, Mixing, Making New Friends

Day Two | Thursday, February 11

All times below are in EDT.

9:30 am – 10:45 am
Networking: Meeting new people, interacting, exchanging cards

11:00 am –11:30 am
Keynote Presenter
: ESG Expectations with a Biden Presidency

11:30 am– 12:00 pm
General Counsel Plenary
:  An Insider’s ESG Perspective

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Learning Luncheon
: Guest Speaker

12:30 pm – 12:45 pm
Health Break

12:45 pm – 2:15 pm
ESG Clinic
: Board Meeting and Moderated In-House Break Out

2:15 pm – 2:45 pm
Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award Ceremony

Registration

Register Online

  • Section Member: $50
  • ABA Member: $149
  • Non ABA Member: $249

Sponsorship

Coming Soon!

CLE Information

The ABA will seek 4.5 hours of CLE credit in 60-minute states and 5.4 hours of CLE credit for this program in 50-minute states. Credit hours are estimated and are subject to each state’s approval and credit rounding rules.  Please visit www.americanbar.org/mcle for general information on CLE at the ABA.

Scholarship Information

A limited number of registration fee reductions are available for this program upon application. The fee-reductions will be determined on a one-time only, case-by-case, first-come first-serve basis. Requests must be received at least three weeks before the program start date. You will be notified prior to the program if your application is approved.

A minimal fee may be charged on all approved applications to defray expenses. For programs with tuition costs of $500 or more, qualifying attorneys will receive at least a 50% reduction in the course fee(s) only.

To apply, send a letter outlining the basis for your request of a fee reduction to intlawmeetings@americanbar.org.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about the program, please contact intlawmeetings@americanbar.org