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SPPI Showcase: bridging the gap - the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues for the global legal profession

Tuesday 26 October 2021

In 2015, the United Nations unanimously adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which sets out "a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future." At the core of this initiative are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which "recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests."

At the same time, the business world has been challenged to integrate value creation for society along with their own financial and shareholder objectives by balancing financial considerations with wider social, economic, environmental and governance factors, collectively described by the term "ESG". There is increasing recognition that rule of law, respect for property rights and access to a skilled, healthy and stable pool of talent, for example, all affect the ability of businesses to operate.

Lawyers, their firms and the profession as a whole have roles to play in the SDG/ESG arena, not only as advisors but as employers and businesses in their own right, and clients and communities expect the profession to respond with not only with advice, but increasingly with action. Firms are increasingly working with others to tackle systemic issues that present business and human risks – such as corruption and climate change – and co-creating codes of conduct and standards. Also, clients, be it small, medium or large companies or public institutions, more and more choose suppliers and advisory services based on their alignment with, and contribution to, the SDGs and ESG. Law firms, bars and law societies will need to answer to these new developments and make their contributions.

The IBA is developing a new project to stimulate and identify cross-divisional projects to support the 17 SDGs. No part of the IBA membership is outside the scope of these goals or this project. This initiative is an opportunity for the IBA to become a Global Partner to deliver the SDGs and at the same time to assist the legal profession to make a tangible contribution to ESG goals.

The IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest will present a showcase session on the growing importance, and convergence, of the UN SDGs and the private sector concepts embodied in ESG, and the implications of both for the global legal profession.

This session will set out the background to the SDGs and ESG and provide details for practitioners to understand and react to the new demands, challenges and opportunities they present.