The Legal 500 Green Guide: United States

United States

Market overview

Welcome to the inaugural United States Green Guide.

In sharp contrast to the EU, the US Congress has not passed legislation on climate change and emissions reduction. So far, the US has had a largely market-driven approach to ESG policy, is still lacking a uniform evaluation of sustainable finance and investing, and generally lags behind in the race of managing climate risk.

However, 2021 saw a dramatic shift when hours after becoming president, Joe Biden re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement and sent a clear signal about his plans to push corporations and investors towards decarbonisation. Market pressure too has driven regulatory agencies to focus on ESG in the near future, and the next years will likely see the introduction of federally mandated ESG disclosures.

An example of this is the SEC proposing long-awaited ESG rules in June 2022 to augment and standardise disclosures related to ESG factors considered by investment funds and advisers. This shortly followed the SEC’s announcement of a ground-breaking climate-disclosure proposal in March 2022, an attempt to increase transparency over public companies’ commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by requiring them to disclose extensive climate-related information in their SEC filings.

It is worth noting, however, that at a state level the regulatory landscape is more varied and sometimes at odds with federal decarbonisation plans.

Following client demand, numerous US-based firms have established ESG practices to assist companies with the demands of navigating disclosure requirements and developing integrated ESG strategies. Yet when it comes to ESG as a business priority, compared to Europe, the US is also still catching up.

Firms are yet to mirror their clients’ concerns and place sustainability firmly on their business agenda. Among growing ESG awareness and clients re-evaluating their supply chains, they will be looking more closely at firms’ sustainability credentials. While US firms are able to demonstrate evidence of internal ESG initiatives and thought leadership, the benefits of well-rounded ESG policies showing the firm is in line with sustainable practices have not yet been fully grasped.

We hope you find this initial guide to some of the key firms engaging with sustainability within the context of the US market useful, and look forward to continually evolving our coverage as the market develops..

Anna Baubock
Anna Bauböck | Editor
Olivia Hart | Senior researcher