Category Archives: Environment

D.C. District Court Determines that Dakota Access Environmental Assessment was Inadequate

On June 14, 2017, the District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court found that the Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) had not adequately considered several issues in its environmental assessment (“EA”) for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and that therefore the Corps’ decision-making was arbitrary and capricious.

The EA was undertaken pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”),… More

Shareholders at ExxonMobil Vote in Favor of Climate Change Reporting

On May 31, shareholders at Exxon Mobil Corp. (“ExxonMobil”) voted in favor of a climate change resolution asking the company to publish an annual report on the business impact of measures designed to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees centigrade, the target set by the Paris Agreement.

The non-binding resolution passed with more than 62% of the votes cast. Specifically, the resolution asks that,… More

Investors Don’t Think That Climate Change Is A Hoax: BlackRock Is Losing Its Patience

This post, written by Seth Jaffe, a Partner in firm’s Environmental practice, was originally posted on the firm’s Law and the Environment blog.

BlackRock, which manages more than $5 trillion in assets, has released a statement on how it “engages with climate risk.”  The statement has three main elements.  

  • Support for the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures
  • Engagement with companies over assessment on climate risks
  • An indication of potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk,…
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Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

It’s Friday iStock_000011057325XSmalland time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: expected efforts by the U.S. Congress to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission’s revenue transparency rule; the dismissal of a case against Royal Dutch Shell in the United Kingdom stemming from the company’s activities in Nigeria; and the revival of claims against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia on the basis of the alleged shooting of protestors at a mine site in Guatemala.… More

Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

iStock_000011057325XSmallIt’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: litigation developments in cases that address the “Social Cost of Carbon,” the liability of interactive media service providers, and human trafficking in corporate supply chains; and a new global ranking of countries according to the relative risk of human trafficking and forced labor.… More

Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

iStock_000011057325XSmallIt’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: an overview of amicus briefs in the Apple case; the arrest of a Facebook executive in Brazil; and a statement from the U.S. Government on its human rights “commitments and pledges,” including its forthcoming adoption of a National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.… More

Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

iStock_000011057325XSmallIt’s Friday, which means it’s time for another rundown of five developments in the field of business and human rights — and broader corporate social responsibility — that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes a number of recent reports on issues ranging from conflict minerals to children’s rights. It also notes the release of the Sustainable Development Goals and the convening of Climate Week NYC.… More

New Executive Order on Federal Sustainability Promotes Responsible Government Procurement Policies

In March,globe_measuring_tape President Obama issued Executive Order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” It replaces and updates a number of Executive Orders and Memorandums, most notably replacing Executive Order 3514, “Federal Leadership In Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” issued by President Obama in 2009.

The new Order provides federal agencies with a series of targets and deadlines through 2025,… More

Mandatory Social and Financial Reporting: Coming Soon to the European Union

Flag_of_Europe.svgCorporate social responsibility (“CSR”) may have its roots in voluntary efforts by businesses to address their broader impacts on society, but the trend towards CSR becoming mandatory advanced significantly this week under a deal that will soon require all large European companies to begin issuing annual social and environmental performance reports.

On February 26, the European Council and the European Commission reached an agreement that all but guarantees that the forthcoming European directive on corporate social responsibility will require all publicly traded companies with more than 500 employees to report their performance on a number of non-financial metrics every year.… More

Brazil’s Belo Monte Move: Will National Development Banks Start Taking Human Rights and Environmental Concerns More Seriously?

In late November, the Brazilian national development bank (“BNDES”, by its Portuguese initials) announced its approval of a $10.8 billion loan to finance the construction of the Belo Monte dam, the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.  Approximately $1.5 billion, representing 11.2% of the loan, was earmarked for social and environmental programs — the largest amount ever set aside by BNDES for such purposes.… More

Newly Released Draft Equator Principles Reflect Greater Focus on Human Rights

The proposed draft of the revised Equator Principles, released on August 13, reflects a greater focus on human rights, with explicit mention of the expectation of human rights due diligence as set forth in the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The revised Principles also cover a wider range of project financing structures in recognition of the fact that the project finance market has diversified significantly since the Principles were first released in 2003.… More

Responsible Investment in Burma (Myanmar): An Experiment that Cannot Afford to Fail

Amy Lehr, the author of this post, will be presenting during a webinar on “Responsible Business in Myanmar: Operating Context, Sanctions, and International CSR Standards,” this Thursday, August 16, at 11:00 a.m. She will be joined by John Ruggie and Gare Smith. Information on registration can be found here.

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The U.S. decision to ease financial and investment sanctions on Burma for the first time since 1997 is a landmark – and controversial – moment.… More

Integration of ESG Factors into Private Equity Investment and Management Processes

Private equity firms are under increasing pressure, especially from their limited partners, to incorporate environmental, social, and governance ("ESG") factors into their investment and management processes. Limited partners expect private equity firms to integrate ESG criteria into due diligence practices, the management of existing portfolio companies, and communications to external stakeholders.

Many private equity firms have signed on to industry guidelines including the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (“UNPRI”) and/or the Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s Guidelines for Responsible Investment.… More

Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into Corporate Compliance Programs

Integrating corporate social responsibility ("CSR") into compliance structures and processes can be critical to ensuring a company’s CSR commitments are communicated and acted upon. Only then can a company reap the intended benefits of a voluntary commitment, whether those benefits are legal, reputational, or operational. Ideally, CSR should be integrated into training, learning, report, and auditing vertically and horizontally across a company.

In an article in the upcoming edition of Natural Gas &… More

Floating the Kyat: A First Step in Fighting Corruption in Burma (Myanmar)

On April 2, one day after its Parliamentary by-elections, Burma (Myanmar) floated its currency, the kyat. This is an important first step in normalizing the country’s investment climate and curbing corruption. For years, the official kyat exchange rate has been more than 100 times lower than the black market rate, which has led to endless headaches for organizations operating in Burma, as well as for Burmese citizens.… More

CSR and the Role of the Board of Directors

I recently authored an article for IR Magazine on "CSR and the Role of the Board." In looking at board oversight in the area of CSR, one source that I relied upon was the 2010 report, Board Oversight of Environmental and Social Issues, published by Calvert Asset Management Company and The Corporate Library. 

The report analyzed board committee charters at S&P 100 firms and found that only 65 companies in the S&P 100 have board committees with some level of responsibility for oversight of corporate responsibility concerns.… More

A New Set of Principles for the Nuclear Power Industry

Corporate social responsibility and nuclear power? Indeed. In September, the very first code of conduct for the nuclear power plant industry was launched.

The development of the "Principles of Conduct" was facilitated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Representatives of all of the major exporters of nuclear power plants participated in the drafting process, which was initiated in 2008. I had the honor of being selected by the Carnegie Endowment to help facilitate the negotiations.… More

Final GHG Protocol Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Standards Available

The most popular suite of tools to measure and manage greenhouse gases just got a lot more complete — allowing companies to track the impact of their products from natural resources and raw materials, through manufacturing, use and disposal, and providing a detailed framework to measure companies’ “everything else” Scope 3 emissions.   

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) finalized its two newest global greenhouse gas standards on October 4. The GHG Protocol are the most widely used suite of accounting tools for measuring,… More

The Carbon Disclosure Project 2011: Big Business Finds Big Returns In Managing Carbon

In the Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2011 analysis of the largest 500 companies, the Global 500, there is a very interesting statistical trend — the companies who were the most strategically focused on accelerating low-carbon growth had returns from January 2005 to May 2011 that doubled the Global 500 as a whole, with returns totaling over 85%, compared to the 42.7% returns for the index.  Even more amazingly, the 13 companies that had been recognized by CDP for this strong focus for the last 3 years outperformed the Global 500 by over 60 percentage points over the same period. … More

Greenpeace Critiques Apparel Sector Companies for Failing to Manage Water Contamination by Suppliers

Some of the world’s most well-known apparel companies have come under criticism from Greenpeace for not sufficiently monitoring and limiting industrial wastewater discharges by suppliers.  In a new report called "Dirty Laundry", Greenpeace highlights the wastewater discharges from two major manufacturers in China that supply products to a range of major brands — including Adidas, Bauer Hockey, Calvin Klein, Converse, Lacoste, Nike, Phillips-Van Heusen and Puma.  … More

International Finance Corporation Releases Revised Sustainability Framework

The International Finance Corporation ("IFC") released its updated Sustainability Framework today, reflecting changes adopted by the IFC’s Board of Directors in May 2011. The Framework includes the IFC’s Policy and Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability.  The updates reflect a number of important changes, including both the scope of Framework’s application and the nature of the substantive requirements for borrowers. The new Framework will be effective on January 1, 2012.

Notably,… More

Revised OECD Guidelines State that “Respect for Human Rights is the Global Standard of Expected Conduct” for Companies

On May 25, forty-two countries, including the 34 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ("OECD"), committed to promote an updated version of the OECD Guidelines of Multinational Enterprises.

The OECD Guidelines (.pdf) are a non-binding code of conduct containing recommendations for responsible business conduct in a global context. The countries that adhere to the Guidelines agree to promote the guidelines among the business sector.… More

Companies and Investors Join Together in Investor-Business Roundtable for a Sustainable Economy

Earlier this week, a coalition of companies, investors, and organized labor announced a major new initiative in support of sustainable business practices. The Investor-Business Roundtable for a Sustainable Economy was launched during the 2011 Ceres Conference. Founding signatories include CalPERS and CalSTRS, the AFL-CIO, Levi Strauss & Co., Pacific Gas & Electric, SAP, Jones Lang LaSalle, Generation Investment Management, and the Skoll Foundation.

Participants in the Roundtable have agreed to leverage their position as "industry leaders and key market influencers to accelerate adoption of sustainability approaches and solutions across [their] networks,… More

Coalition Launches Index To Measure and Manage the Apparel Industry’s Environmental Impacts

Thirty of the largest apparel manufacturers and retailers – together comprising an estimated 60% of global apparel sales – recently announced the formation of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. This group, which also includes academics, non-profits and the Environmental Protection Agency, is creating the industry’s first large-scale initiative to improve environmental and social performance through the establishment of standards and tools.

The Sustainable Apparel Index will be a tool for companies to evaluate the impacts of the entire life cycle of apparel products,… More

CSR and the Law: Five Big Developments in 2010

Looking back at 2010, there have been a number of significant legal developments in the field of corporate social responsibility.  New federal and state statutes have imposed due diligence requirements on companies with the specific intent of addressing human rights concerns, ranging from forced labor to the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Courts continue to grapple with the potential scope of corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). … More

European Parliament Adopts Resolution on Corporate Social Responsibility

A resolution adopted by the European Parliament on November 25, 2010 increases the likelihood that the days of CSR as a purely voluntary initiative are numbered. Approved by a margin of 480 votes to 48, the resolution on corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements calls on the European Commission to include a CSR clause in all of the European Union’s trade agreements.

Such a clause would require,… More

Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum

Early last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived a tort case brought by 25 members of the Peruvian Achuar indigenous group and Amazon Watch against Occidental Petroleum ("Occidental").  Plaintiffs allege that the company’s operations in the Peruvian Amazon resulted in severe contamination of the land and rivers in the region and that, as a result, they have suffered adverse health effects and negative impacts on their livelihoods.… More

Corporate Exposure to Water-Related Risks and Engagement with Key Stakeholders

CDP Water Disclosure, a program of the Carbon Disclosure Project, released its first water disclosure report (.pdf) last week.  The report summarizes the results of a survey of 302 companies from 34 countries regarding their water use and their management of water-related risks.  The findings highlight the degree to which water-related challenges are capturing the attention of a wide range of corporate stakeholders.… More