A lawyer’s view: ‘ESG ought to pervade the whole lot we do’

A lawyer’s view: ‘ESG should pervade everything we do’

Jeroen Ouwehand leads a recently launched ESG campaign in the law firm and leads a panel that brings together representatives from across the company to “help organizations navigate and drive accelerating global change towards more sustainable businesses and societies”.

“There is a reason I chair our ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] Board as senior partner. It’s something that comes from within … I have – as we all should – concerns about the planet and nature; I became vegan in 2016 … I have heated discussions at the breakfast table with my family about this topic, so it is very important to me, “says Ouwehand.

In a press release promoting the initiative, the firm said it had more than 400 lawyers and executives working on ESG matters.

“I wouldn’t suggest that 400 people sit and do ESG work from morning to night,” Ouwehand told Private Equity News’ sister company Financial News in a video call from his home in Amsterdam.

“ESG should permeate everything we do,” he says. “It affects so much, whether it’s a transaction or litigation, that 400 may at some point be an irrelevant number because you think so many more people in the company will get involved.”

In the past few weeks, 400 of the firm’s 570 partners have completed ESG training and the firm is now running the training for all lawyers and executives.

While this is an issue close to Ouwehand’s heart, Clifford Chance is a £ 1.8 billion company with an average earnings per share partner of nearly £ 1.7 million. If ESG weren’t a potential moneymaker, the company wouldn’t invest in it.

“Aside from the fact that it’s the right thing, it’s also a great commercial opportunity,” says Ouwehand. “There will be some in the company who really care about it because they want to be on the right side of the story, so to speak. There are also many for whom it’s just a commercial imperative, or somewhere in the middle, it’s a mix of these elements. “

Professional service companies in many ways reflect their customers’ priorities, and in this case it is no different.

Ouwehand is reviewing the name of Clifford Chance client HSBC to provide $ 750 billion to $ 1 billion in green finance and investment by 2030. Another client, wealth manager BlackRock, is committed to getting companies it invests in to reveal their sustainability plans.

According to Ouwehand, in the age of globalization, Clifford Chance was at the forefront of the globalization of legal business. Now that sustainability seems to be the future, the company is trying to position itself to play its role.

“The legal industry plays a big role. It’s about supporting the sustainable development goals. You really need to lay the foundations for this change. I think it’s another form of capitalism we’re headed for, ”he says.


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