United Nations Global Compact Updates Guidance to Help General Counsel Drive the Corporate Sustainability Agenda

The United Nations Global Compact has issued updated guidance to help General Counsel advance the corporate sustainability agenda.

Developed together with Linklaters and the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability Version 2.0 is designed to help legal professionals drive change and become leaders in embedding sustainability into their companies’ strategies and operations. It follows the original Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability that was published in 2015.

“As the role of General Counsel moves beyond legal compliance and towards corporate sustainability, we see them as key change agents with the ability to create long-term value for their companies,” said Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “We hope that this updated guide inspires lawyers to embrace their crucial role in advancing responsible business conduct.”

The new guidance serves as a source of reference for lawyers navigating the complex landscape of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. 

“Society’s expectations of companies are in flux, requiring us to reimagine corporate purpose,” said Amelia Miazad, Professor and Founding Director of the Business in Society Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law. “This current shift from short-term profit maximization to long-term sustainability means that inside counsel today must not only manage legal risk, but also navigate environmental, social and governance issues that pose ethical and reputational risks.”

“Corporate sustainability is attracting increasing attention as companies face growing interest and scrutiny on their policies and where this lands within their fiduciary duties,” said Charlie Jacobs, Senior Partner and Chairman at Linklaters. “General Counsel are well placed and equipped to facilitate real change and push the issues up the agenda as companies grapple with growing expectations, impending regulation and reporting requirements.”

The guide — developed with the support of Nestlé and under the guidance of an advisory group comprising General Counsel across various industries — covers five key areas vital to navigating the changing corporate sustainability landscape:

  • Corporate Sustainability and Business Integrity — How General Counsel can embed corporate values and responsible business conduct within their organizations to help ensure corporate sustainability
  • Corporate Sustainability and Fiduciary Duties — How businesses can successfully integrate ESG factors into decision-making processes
  • Human Rights and Supply Chain Diligence — How General Counsel can respond to greater calls for sustainable supply chains by conducting human rights due diligence
  • Corporate Sustainability and Grievance Mechanisms — How grievance mechanisms can form part of responsible business processes and contribute to corporate sustainability
  • Challenges to Corporate Sustainability — Managing a Crisis — How General Counsel can use sustainability principles to help prevent, prepare for, navigate through and recover from a crisis

The new guide was showcased today at The World Bank Group Law, Justice and Development Week 2019 in Washington, D.C.

To download the full guide, visit here.

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