General counsel have ESG jitters even as efforts increase

Stanford, CA: Despite pressure to improve their companies’ commitment to environmental, social, and governance matters, general counsel are still wary of disclosure risks and CEO and employee-driven activism that could come with ESG, according to a new report.

Over three-quarters of the participants in the survey released Thursday by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University said that they faced pressure, especially from employees, to grow ESG efforts in the past three years.

ESG is a growing priority for corporations as shareholders and employees press them to become more active on issues like racial injustice and climate change. Corporate legal departments are increasingly tasked with guiding such efforts.

General counsel respondents said their companies are most frequently pressured to increase their financial commitments to the diversity, equity, and inclusion portion of ESG. They also face lesser but considerable pressures around their companies’ social impact, wages paid to lower-level employees, and environment and sustainability practices.

Despite the general trend toward ESG, stakeholder capitalism, and corporate activism, the report concluded that general counsel are wary of the uncertain long-term impact. This could lead to greater governance issues for companies looking to build sustainable businesses.

On the other hand, we are in the early days of the application of ESG principles, and how they are measured. Therefore, this will likely be a bump in the road on the way to building a sustainable planet.

Thomson Reuters now owns and operates the news website, which was launched in 2005. It has over 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists working out of approximately 200 offices worldwide. Reuter established his organization in London in 1851 after moving from Germany.

The CGRI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting corporate governance as an academic and professional field of study and research. Recent themes addressed include executive compensation, board governance, CEO succession, ESG investing, and proxy voting. To bridge the gap between theory and practice, and to promote corporate governance as an unique area of study and research, the CGRI organizes a series of annual research conferences and other academic events, publishes a newsletter and website, and conducts an extensive program of scholarships and fellowships. The CGRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by foundations, corporations, individual donors, and its membership. It has supported the study of corporate governance (non-corporate entities governance issues)  since 1981 with over $1.4 million in grants to date.

The CGRI was founded with support from the John L. Weinberg Foundation and the late John J. McCloy Fund, both of New York City; it has since received significant financial support from several other foundations including The Starr Foundation and The Wallace Genetic Foundation.

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ESG: The New Way of Doing Business in Stanford, CA

Business and organizational sustainability is a complex issue in Stanford, with many stakeholders and perspectives. It’s also an area where the stakes are high – if we don’t get it right, there will be dire consequences for our communities and the planet.

The good news is that more investors are taking notice of ESG issues when they invest in Stanford companies and organizations. In fact, over the past decade institutional investors have been increasingly incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance factors into their investment decisions. And soon it will be impossible to win any RFP’s without it.

We want everyone (not just big institutions in Stanford) to be able to incorporate ESG-related risk into their actions because Companies that don’t adapt to these changes will not survive. This change has many companies in Stanford scrambling to figure out how they can stay competitive and be profitable while also contributing to a better future.

ESG The Report is one solution that helps businesses in Stanford find their niche in this new landscape by providing information on risks and opportunities related to environmental, social and governance factors affecting them today. Our report offers insights into what investors are looking for from companies in Stanford and around the globe. Ask about our ESG Frameworks package to help you get started on making your company, department or organization diverse, equitable and inclusive for all stakeholders.