Berchem and Smith Discuss the Intersection of Corporate Governance and ESG in Reuters Westlaw Q&A

Thomson Reuters Westlaw has published a Q&A with Akin Gump corporate partner Kerry Berchem, co-head of the firm’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) group, and consultant Charles Smith in which they discuss their view of the current state of the corporate governance and ESG issues.

Among the topics covered:

Drivers of increasing focus on ESG issues – “Shareholders, regulators, employees, customers, communities, and the media are primary drivers. Management, in some cases, can often feel like a passenger on the journey — particularly given the absence of a defined roadmap with clear regulations and disclosure requirements — but they, too, have become drivers as a result of the increased and increasing focus on ESG, particularly by investors.”

Board of directors' role in a company's ESG strategy – “As a company develops and implements an overall ESG strategy, directors must necessarily adjust a company's historical, narrowly drawn focus on its own shareholders and expand its perspective to take into consideration the interests of a more broadly defined set of stakeholders who have financial and other forms of investment in the company.”

Marks of a successful ESG initiative – “At a high-level, a company that has developed ESG initiatives should be able to point to several objective and supportable metrics that demonstrate the success of such initiatives: reduced carbon emissions; more diverse boardrooms and human capital; improved long-terms returns on ESG-tied investments; improved sales figures relative to "green" or sustainable product offerings; reductions in supply chain risks; and increasing positive shareholder votes. More subjectively, ESG success should result in reputational enhancement and a company being known for establishing and having a positive cultural dynamic.”

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