ESG factors. The demand for advice to face the challenge of climate change requires a strong mix of legal and engineering skills

Page edited by Massimo Carbonaro

Specific training, new external consultants and dedicated teams may not be enough. For law firms, the challenge of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) factors and the demand from companies in this area for specialized advice is translating into an enhancement of skills that could bring in new technical professionals, such as engineers.

The challenge imposed by climate change and the strategy outlined to counter it – which, among other things, provides for the adaptation to ESG factors by companies with sustainable development objectives – is increasingly pressing. This translates into the involvement of law firms  which must be prepared for requests in this field.

Foreign companies come into this scenario assessing the competitiveness of a company they want to invest in. Meanwhile, financial institutions are increasingly oriented to consider the bankability of a project on the basis of the sustainability and environmental impact of the company itself.

Multidisciplinarity and training

The introduction of “objective metrics”, first of all those of a technical nature that will make it possible to classify an economic activity as eco-sustainable, will require new skills for law firms. “The regulation on sustainable finance – comments Silvio Riolo, partner of Studio Legale Cappelli RCCD – is at the crossroads between various skills, legal, financial and technical-scientific (generalizing, engineering skills). In the future, in order to be worthy of this name, it will be necessary to combine different expertises.

And if at first it will probably be indispensable that regulatory advice of this kind be the result of the joint work of law firms and engineering firms or institutes, I believe that over time professionalism in the legal sector can be refined, supported by a wealth of technical-scientific knowledge.” It will be necessary to be increasingly multidisciplinary.

Faced with this situation, one answer is formation. The AIAF, the Italian Association for Financial Analysis, reiterated that major law firms are strengthening the skills of their ESG teams. So much so that AIAF has activated an intense training activity on this front. “Our feeling – commented Davide Grignani, president of AIAF – is that law firms risk a new Darwinian leap between those who have the skills and those who are behind in ESG culture. While governance law firms include acquired skills, this is not the case for environmental matters , except for law firms that have environmental practices. Furthermore, social matters are  a difficult subject because they concern several areas.”

Consultancy and specializations

But training is not the only way, for example Freebly, a benefit company among lawyers, welcomed Riccardo Taverna (an environmental sustainability expert) into its ranks precisely to strengthen the team dedicated to sustainability. “Companies are looking for us a lot” – said the lawyer Elisa Geraci of the board committee of Freebly – for the issue of governance. We find ourselves supporting the decision-making flows and the knowledge of  sustainability principles helps those who are at the helm of a company.”

Some law firms with an international branch have pooled experiences in different countries. This is the case of CMS Italia which has developed a super check list of elements to be taken into account in the evaluation of a company’s ESG performance.

“To identify what are the elements to verify and evaluate – commented  Pietro Cavasola, partner of CMS Italia – we have built a check list of things that must be ascertained. Within the international organization of CMS, we have set up a team that includes members from all the countries where we are present.”

In the field of ESG issues there are then those who are specializing. Deloitte legal has set up a dedicated team for benefit companies. In Italy, they are constantly growing and have doubled in the last year reaching over 1400. “The goal – explains Carlo Gagliardi, Managing Partner of Deloitte legal – is to respond with specialized and flexible services to accompany the business choices of companies and to give them the tranquillity to operate in compliance with the reference legislative context. The transformation into a benefit company is now on the agendas of many companies, which need specific legal assistance.”