August 6, 2020, the law offices of Winston & Strawn announced the launch of its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Advisory Team. Co-chaired by Houston-based partners Mike Blankenship and Eric Johnson, the ten-member advisory team includes Mike Melbinger, a specialist in executive compensation and employee benefit programs and a frequently published subject matter expert here on Deferred Compensation News.
As the announcement explains, the function of the ESG Advisory Team is one of synthesizing the firm’s multidisciplinary experience to help boards and management teams oversee the complete spectrum of ESG related legal and business issues.
Co-chair Mike Blankenship stated, “Amid an ever-changing business environment, it’s clear that the most resilient and successful businesses are placing ESG principles at the forefront of their core values and leveraging those principles to chart a path for financial success and future growth to the benefit of all their stakeholders, including employees, customers, vendors, local communities, and stockholders.”
Winston & Strawn’s ESG advisory team will focus on matters relating to:
- ESG disclosures and messaging, including program implementation and framework selection;
- Board oversight of ESG risks and establishment of related corporate principles and values;
- Corporate governance;
- Shareholder activism;
- Regulatory compliance;
- Energy transition and renewable and alternative energy sources;
- Employee benefits and executive compensation, including incentivizing ESG-related behaviors;
- Labor and employment; and
- Crisis management.
Focus on ESG Principles Only Amplified by COVID-19
This proactive initiative by Winston & Strawn is yet another signal that both nationally and globally, corporations are recognizing the need to embrace ESG principles and implement ESG-related programs. In a publicly available letter published earlier this year, well in advance of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic, Blackrock Chairman and CEO, Larry Fink, called for companies, investors, and governments to “…prepare for a significant reallocation of capital.”
At the close of Q1 2020, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “In the first four months of 2020, investors poured a record of at least $12.2 billion into funds that say they invest in environmental, social, and governance practices, according to investment research platform, Morningstar Direct.”
You can read the full content of the Winston & Strawn announcement to the media here. You can also review BlackRock’s “Survey of Sustainability Disclosures by Small and Mid-Cap Companies,” to gain additional insights on the timeliness of an issue that Larry Fink describes as, “the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”
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