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Corporate Governance in an Age of Increased Environmental Accountability, Liability and Risk (2018 Corporate Forum)


October 23, 2018


Washington, DC

ELI 2018 Corporate Forum

Companies are facing increasing and unprecedented risks and uncertainty in the corporate governance of environmental, health and safety issues.  While companies are taking active steps to advance and demonstrate their initiatives to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, financial regulators, customers, investors, NGOs, the media, and—increasingly—prosecutors are scrutinizing corporate disclosures, marketing claims, activities, and governance procedures and bringing concerns to the forefront of public debate.  Corporate ESG disclosures and activities—or lack thereof—increasingly are creating complex legal responsibilities across multiple layers of corporate governance, including board and executive oversight, front line auditing, and external engagement that are threatening significant liability and brand issues in the United States and abroad when not executed with abundant care. These trends are creating a heightened need to be deliberate, proactive, and precise with ESG activities and disclosures, and to ensure proper governance procedures are in place from the factory to the Board to avoid the risk of increasing scrutiny and liability. The focus areas extend to reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, sustainability, environmental impact lifecycles, supply chains, human and worker rights, advertising, marketing, website and public representations, and corporate environmental governance procedures.

The Corporate Forum concentrated on the rapidly increasing focus on corporate governance of EHS issues, including the emerging risks and liabilities, insight from investors, NGOs, regulators, and prosecutors on areas of focus, lessons learned from recent experiences, and best practices to mitigate risks going forward. What are the responsibilities of corporate officers? What are the risks – financial (such as for remediation), reputational and legal? What are ways that companies can address those risks? How have customer, shareholder and investor demands, as well as laws, regulations and case law changed company performance and risk?

Cassie Phillips, Environmental Law Institute (Moderator)
Avi S. Garbow, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, formerly General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Melissa A. Hoffer, Assistant Attorney General and Chief, Energy and Environment Bureau, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
Neal Kemkar, Senior Counsel & Director of Environmental Policy, General Electric
Brendan McCarthy, Investment Manager, The Earth Partners LP
Lori Michelin, President and CEO, World Environment Center (WEC)

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