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Driving positive change: Why corporate advisers must upskill in ESG and sustainability

As global concerns over climate change and corporate social responsibility continue to escalate, lawyers’ role in advising corporate clients is also evolving, writes Sarah Mateljan.

user iconSarah Mateljan 09 March 2023 Careers
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Lawyers need to understand the risks and responsibilities that arise for companies in relation to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, as well as sustainability.

The ESG and sustainability landscape has undergone a significant shift in recent years, with a growing focus on the role of the corporate sector in addressing these issues. Companies are increasingly expected to integrate ESG considerations into their decision-making processes and report on their ESG performance. This trend is reflected in the rise of mandatory and voluntary reporting frameworks and standards for corporate sustainability, such as those developed by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).


As a result, lawyers advising corporate clients need to understand these various reporting frameworks and standards and the evolving obligations of companies. This is particularly critical in the context of climate change, as the federal government has flagged new laws requiring Australian companies to report on climate-related financial risks in alignment with the TCFD framework. Corporate responses to climate change have also prompted increased regulatory scrutiny on practices such as “greenwashing”, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) launching its first court action in February against a super fund that allegedly made misleading statements about the sustainable characteristics of its investment options.

The release of the new online CPD course “ESG, Sustainability and Corporate Governance” is timely and relevant to this shifting legal landscape. The course provides an overview of key issues pertinent to ESG and sustainability in the corporate sector, including emerging concerns for corporate boards such as risk management, disclosure, and reporting.

The course also highlights the importance of understanding the interplay between sustainability and corporate governance — and how this can impact a company’s ESG performance. It also provides an overview of the key standards and frameworks shaping corporate decision-making in this space and the evolving obligations of companies in the context of responding to climate change and avoiding allegations of “greenwashing”.

As the corporate sector faces increased scrutiny of its ESG performance, the demand for lawyers with expertise in this area is only set to grow.

You can equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to advise corporate clients in this evolving legal landscape and contribute to your annual CPD compliance by earning 1 Substantive Law point — with LawCPD’s new interactive course, “ESG, Sustainability and Corporate Governance”.

Sarah Mateljan is a co-founder and director of LawCPD, the leading online provider of professional development for Australian lawyers.