The UK government has published a response to its January 2021 consultation on the new climate risk-related governance and reporting requirements that will apply to trustees of larger occupational pension schemes from 1 October 2021. The government has also published the finalised regulations and accompanying statutory guidance.

The requirements under the regulations are essentially unchanged from the consultation version – the changes that have been made are largely technical and are designed to clarify aspects of the requirements. Changes have also been made to the statutory guidance to provide further clarity and support for trustees.

Continue reading for our discussion on the governance and reporting requirements.

Continue Reading UK Climate change risk — new pension scheme trustee duties confirmed

Following a long-waited ratification (on March 4, 2021), Brazil became a party to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (“Nagoya Protocol” or “Protocol”) on  June 2, 2021. This is an opportunity to dig into some practical consequences of the ratification. One of these consequences relates to offering a possible remedy to clarify one of the pending issues related to the material scope of Law 13123 of May 20, 2015 (the “Brazilian Biodiversity Law” or “Law”).

Continue Reading Biodiversity – Brazil: Does the Nagoya Protocol Set Limits to the Scope of Domestic Legislation?

On June 11, 2021, the German parliament passed the “Law on corporate due diligence in supply chains” (“Supply Chain Law”) (“Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz”). It requires companies to take steps to prevent human rights violations in their supply chains. This builds on the growing momentum for mandatory human rights due diligence (see our previous blog posts here and here).

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – Germany passes Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence Law

Earlier this year, the US Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) issued a Request for Input (“RFI”) on the risks of climate change and natural disasters to the national housing finance markets.1 As we discussed in our prior Legal Update, the RFI posed 25 questions on how FHFA can best identify, assess and respond to those risks for the entities FHFA regulates (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks) and the housing finance markets in general. Comments were due on April 19, 2021. The RFI is one of a series of recent actions by the federal government to address the financial risks posed by climate change.2 Most recently, on May 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring the federal government to take several actions to identify and address the financial risks posed by climate change.3

Continue reading for our discussion on the comments in response to the RFI.

Continue Reading Update on FHFA’s Request for Input on Climate Change and Natural Disaster Risks

In May 2021, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published a report setting out a series of tools investors can use to identify and address human rights risks, including modern slavery risks, in their portfolio companies.  The report includes a sectoral analysis of modern slavery rights in four sectors – Tourism, Construction, Food and Beverage, and Textile and Footwear – and adds to the growing toolkit of ESG-related resources available to investors (see, for example, our briefing Asset Managers: Mastering Non-Financial Risk – The Evolution of Human Rights Due Diligence).

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – Analysing modern slavery risks in portfolio companies: practical considerations for investors

On May 10, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) issued a circular implementing new sustainability-related reporting requirements for the top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalization. New disclosure will be made in the format of the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR), which is a notable departure from SEBI’s existing Business Responsibility Report and a significant step toward bringing sustainability reporting up to existing financial reporting standards.

Continue reading for more details on the disclosure requirements in the new BRSR format.

Continue Reading India Imposes New ESG Reporting Requirements on Top 1,000 Listed Companies

On 29 April 2021, the German Federal Constitutional Court published its groundbreaking ruling following several constitutional complaints against provisions of the German Federal Climate Change Act of 2019. In its order, the First Senate of the Constitutional Court held that the provisions determining national climate targets and the annual emission amounts allowed until 2030 are incompatible with fundamental rights insofar as they lack sufficient specifications for further emission reductions from 2031 onwards. The German legislator is now obliged to enact provisions by 31 December 2022 that specify in greater detail how the reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions are to be adjusted after 2030.

Continue Reading ESG litigation: German Federal Constitutional Court rules that the German Federal Climate Change Act is partially unconstitutional

There have been two recent developments in the UK which further highlight the litigation risk for  international companies in respect of the activities of  their foreign subsidiaries. The UK is certainly not the only regime where there has been a notable increase in human rights related litigation but a distinct pattern is emerging.

PGI Group (PGI), a group of companies that operate in the agribusiness and renewable energy spaces, and its Malawian subsidiary, Lujeri Tea Estates Ltd (Lujeri), are facing a legal action in the UK High Court in connection with alleged systemic sexual abuse, including rape, sexual assault and discrimination, in Malawi.  Lujeri is a supplier to a number of known UK tea brands, including Typhoo, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley.  It is also a major supplier of macadamia nuts, which are grown in its Malawi orchards.

In the meantime, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Brands sought last month to strike out claims made against them and their subsidiaries by Malawian tobacco farmers, which were filed in the UK High Court last December.

These cases add to the growing list of companies to have faced legal claims in the UK courts in respect of the actions of their foreign subsidiaries (see our previous commentary on Camellia plc, Royal Dutch Shell plc and Vedanta Resources plc).  The cases also highlight the increasing litigation risk dynamic amid the growing trend of human rights and environmental litigation and underline the importance of UK companies taking steps to identify, prevent and mitigated human rights-related risks both in their own operations and also in the operations of their subsidiaries. Continue Reading Business and Human Rights in the UK – Litigation Risk

On May 17-19, 2021, Risk.net hosted their ESG and Sustainable Investing conference, bringing together 350 senior directors to explore how ESG principles and sustainable investing will re-shape the global financial market. Speaking on a panel discussing stewardship, fiduciary duty and shareholder engagement – “Using investor influence for a positive, transformational change” – Mark Manning, the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) sustainable finance technical specialist, is reported to have said that “an investor either needs to inject capital into new, purposeful and impactful projects, or use active-investor stewardship and influence to drive meaningful change in investing companies’ strategies”.

Continue reading for more details and analysis regarding stewardship and sustainable investing.

Continue Reading Investment Stewardship in the UK: The Regulatory Perspective

As our readers are well aware, climate change and stakeholder litigation is on a global uptrend as it has never been before. Whether claims are brought against governments or companies, whether these claims are accepted or dismissed, and whether they involve domestic or cross-border matters, there is already a plethora of precedents worldwide involving climate issues and stakeholder litigation, each playing their own part on the grand scheme of legal measures and instruments available for fighting global warming. However, only a handful of these precedents are as significant as the decision issued on May 26th, 2021, by the Hague District Court in Milieudefensie et. al. v. Royal Dutch Shell.

In summary, the Hague District Court has ordered Shell to reduce its CO2 emission levels by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels. In this Blog Post, we provide an overview on this decision and on how it may be a game changer when it comes to climate change and stakeholder litigation.

Continue Reading Unprecedented Decision Sets a Milestone for Climate Change Litigation Cases: What’s Next?