Our Senior Partner Clive Coleman speaks on handling critical reputational issues at the heart of ESG litigation

Our Senior Partner Clive Coleman took part in a panel at the Legal Business ESG Summit 2024 with Geraint Webb KC from Henderson Chambers and Heather Gagen, Head of ESG and Impact and also Head of Dispute Resolution at Travers Smith.

Against the backdrop of the rapidly-developing ESG regulatory environment the ‘Litigation, Reputation Management, and ESG Challenges’ session covered some of the key legal, strategic and practical challenges that confront the growing number of commercial and other organisations navigating ESG-related claims.

Clive spoke about the power of damaging ESG stories to strike at the heart of an organisation’s values, and shape how customers, clients, business partners, investors and the public thinks. Pre-litigation, he emphasised how these stories can go viral online in minutes causing huge reputational harm. At that point, he said that companies are in a time critical crisis communications situation and ‘don’t have time to go speed dating with five PR agencies’. Firms need to have established relationships with specialist PR advisors who already understand the way they work and make decisions, their culture and leadership team. That way a fast and effective response can be constructed, false and inaccurate coverage corrected and the corporate reputation protected.

Once litigation begins, Clive spoke of the important dual roles of specialist lawyers focussed on winning the case on the evidence and the law in court, and public relations specialists managing the information that can become public at many points during the life of a case. ‘The court of public opinion moves faster than any court of law or justice system ever can’, he said.

Geraint Webb KC provided insight into key developments in ESG litigation in the UK and how these have affected the legal risks faced by corporates. Heather Gagen spoke about emerging global litigation trends including the use of human rights concepts, and how greenwashing claims are likely to be affected by increased regulation.

The packed summit event was attended by an audience made up of major corporates and law firms, and others stakeholders, indicating how significant the increased focus on ESG is for companies and those who support and advise them.