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Clifford Chance senior partner to lead global ESG push, as organisations focus on the opportunities and challenges of the sustainable future

20 November 2020

Clifford Chance senior partner to lead global ESG push, as organisations focus on the opportunities and challenges of the sustainable future

International law firm Clifford Chance has established a global taskforce, chaired by senior partner Jeroen Ouwehand, to focus on helping organisations to navigate and bring about the accelerating global shift towards more sustainable businesses and societies.

The ESG Board, which brings together representatives from across Clifford Chance's practices and markets, will bring together the firm's market-leading Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) work, fast-tracking the development of best practice.

Jeroen Ouwehand, Senior Partner at Clifford Chance, comments: "The tidal wave of investor, customer, and stakeholder pressure for a more sustainable future creates huge opportunities and risks for businesses.

"This shift is as much about human rights and inclusion as it is about taking care of our environment. And it is not about being perfect today, but how to be better tomorrow. From the energy business striving to meet the Paris goals to the multinational pursuing inclusion from the shop floor to the boardroom, this journey is about creating a fairer and more enduring world balancing planet, people, and prosperity."

Speaking about the creation of the Board he adds: "In fact, we have been doing ESG work since before the term was coined. We have helped traditional energy businesses to transition away from fossil fuels, and enabled carbon neutral flights. We have pioneered green bonds and sustainability-linked finance. And we have helped business to prevent human rights abuses in their supply chains.

"However, the gravity and complexity of our long-term challenges are increasing, making ESG a central issue for more and more boards. So, we are drawing together the best of all our insights to ensure we remain at, and shape, the cutting edge of the critical ESG business issues of today and tomorrow."

Drawing on working groups dedicated to issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, clean hydrogen, climate change, business and human rights, and corporate governance, the Board will oversee the work of a broader ESG team of over 400 lawyers and senior business personnel.

Ouwehand continues: "This is something that cuts across everything we do. Just as it must for business and society as a whole, if future generations are to thrive."

Clifford Chance has a strong track record of working with clients to pioneer developments across the whole ESG spectrum. Highlights include:

  • Being the number one advisor to issuers of green bonds globally2 - pioneering green bonds across many markets
  • Advising Shell on its pioneering, sustainability-linked USD10bn revolving credit facility
  • Advising easyJet on its strategy to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel of every flight
  • Advising Standard Chartered on the first sovereign blue bond, to finance ocean-based projects and enhance the protection of marine resources while sustainably developing Seychelles' blue economy
  • Advising NatWest Group on its first social bond, to help conserve and create jobs in deprived areas of the UK
  • Advising Brazilian pulp and paper producer Klabin on its high yield green bond issuance, to fund sustainable forest management, restoration, and water and waste management
  • Advising Goldman Sachs on Ecuador's social bond, the first issued by a sovereign, to fund Ecuador's social housing project
  • Advising Bank of America on Guatemala's social bond, supporting social investments related to the country's efforts to prevent, contain, and mitigate COVID-19
  • Advising the sponsors on Formosa I, Taiwan's first commercial scale offshore wind farm, and its follow-up
  • Advising a multinational packaging producer to ensure the continued absence of forced labour by third parties in its supply chain
  • Supporting a resources business to achieve more socially responsible business practices, following public criticism and shareholder pressure for alleged human rights abuses at one of its sites

Applying the same values and understanding to itself, Clifford Chance aims to lead by example. Some recent examples include:

  • Being the first major law firm to launch a comprehensive set of global and regional inclusion targets covering gender, ethnicity, and LGBT+ inclusion.
  • Being the first major law firm to include partners in (UK) gender pay gap reporting
  • Actively partnering with 17 NGOs to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Supporting the United Nations, leading research in 193 Member states, to lay the groundwork for a potential future universal human right to live in a healthy environment
  • Working with Human Rights Watch to advance the practice of effectively prosecuting alleged war criminals, particularly in the context of Iraq and Syria.

Ouwehand has been Clifford Chance Senior Partner since January 2019. Prior to this he was the Amsterdam Office Managing Partner from 2015. Specialising in dispute resolution, he also led the firm's Continental European Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice.