Professional services suppliers are not used to thinking about themselves as part of the supply chain. With more firms recognising the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives, law firms have a huge opportunity to contribute - but need to approach that opportunity the right way.
That was the message from this morning's General Counsel panel at The Lawyer's Marketing Leadership Summit. We were well hosted by Julia Hayhoe, Managing Director & Independent Advisor to the World Economic Forum GC Community at Hayhoe Consulting.
Our panellists were:
- Katie Smart, General Counsel at Tarmac
- Anthony Kenny, Assistant General Counsel Corporate & CBS at GSK
- Mark Maurice-Jones, General Counsel & Compliance Officer at Nestlé
- Stuart Morgan, Chief Legal & Risk Officer Group Company Secretary & Director of Sustainability & Communications at Coats
There were so many interesting takeaways from the session, the two that came to the fore time and time again were that law firms must "walk the talk" when it comes to ESG and that firms have a unique and valuable perspective that they can leverage to assist commercial discussions around ESG.
"Walking the talk" is step one
Our panellists were in agreement that while ESG vetting of suppliers is not quite as well structured at Diversity & Inclusion, the arrival of ESG criteria for procurement is imminent.
In the next year or so, it is expected that as ESG metrics become commonplace in the boardroom (as Diversity & Inclusion is) that suppliers, including professional services firms, will need to meet a minimum standard for environmental responsibility.
It's worth noting that while there are no hard and fast policies on ESG in procurement for firms as they stand today - every GC on the stream was focused on leading the way for their firm is looking for suppliers that went above and beyond in their ESG approach.
It's no surprise that having a well-articulated, well promoted and demonstrably followed ESG strategy will be essential to working with clients and prospect in the very near future.
Educating your clients and prospects will be key
In what I think is our favourite anecdote from a legal event ever, Stuart Morgan recounted that he felt his company got the most value when he walked into a meeting, confident about schooling the firm he was meeting with and the firm was able to educate him on an area of ESG that he needed to understand more deeply.
The other panellists were all in agreement that their perspectives were limited by their role in working with one firm. External advisors are able to gain exposure to a myriad of other approaches from their multiple clients, that give them a valuable basis to connect with each client on an individualised basis.
To position your firm strongly, demonstrate the full extent of the value you bring beyond regulatory compliance. Share your ideas, insights, risks, best practices and connections that will help us contribute to this critical initiative.