More and more companies are putting sustainability at the forefront of their strategies and are looking for ways to combat climate change. Customers and investors expect companies to act ethically and respect human rights.

In the midst of this, companies are turning to their legal advisors for knowledge about good, sustainable practices — not just about what the law or courts says is legal. Legal work is changing, and I think that it is changing for the better.

SUSTAINABILITY EXTENDS THROUGHOUT BUSINESS LAW

Lawyers seems to have discovered sustainability work a bit late, though we are in a position to have a significant impact. Sustainability issues extend far beyond environmental law. Nearly every contract brings with it the opportunity to make a difference.

It is difficult to think of a field of law that wouldn’t involve some aspect of sustainability. Green finance is becoming more common, and contract templates are evolving. In mergers and acquisitions, sustainability issues come up in due diligence reviews and can impact purchase prices, and there is much work that could be done in energy sector contractual structures.

Public procurement projects should be implemented sustainably. If competitors want to work together to reduce emissions, they need a competition law assessment. Business intelligence needs to be based on the responsible use of data, and merely knowing the GDPR by rote is not enough. Anti-corruption work needs functional compliance practices and whistleblowing channels.

IMPACT THROUGH NEW FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS

The pursuit of impact is also creating entirely new kinds of work for lawyers. Impact investing and impact funds have already gained a foothold. In impact investing, private capital is not only used to pursue a profit, but also measurable benefits for society, and it is being promoted as one possible solution to the increasing challenges faced by the public sector.

NEW CAREER PATHS FOR LAWYERS

The changes that are going on in the world are a call to lifelong learning and are creating new, interesting career paths for future generations of lawyers. Who would have thought just a few years ago that the UN’s sustainable development goals could be a major part of business lawyer’s work?

DOING OUR PART

At the beginning of 2020, Castrén & Snellman became the first Finnish law firm to join the Global Compact. There are three pillars to sustainability at C&S: our own sustainability, sustainability advice for clients and impact on society.

We can have the biggest impact through helping our clients develop their own sustainability. In addition to the UN Global Compact, our sustainability work is anchored in the UN’s sustainable development goals. Our key goals are to promote equality, fight climate change and promote the rule of law.

This blog was first published in 18.8.2020.