The Green Summit Denmark 2023 the second time brought together leading practitioners and in-house counsel from across the country and region to discuss the legal sector’s engagement with sustainability, ESG and climate action. This edition of the event focused specifically on the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD).
After a welcome address by Anna Bauböck, editor of The Legal 500’s Global Green Guide, Maria Holst Levin, co-head of Kromann Reumert’s ESG group, made some opening remarks, pointing to the role lawyers have to play when it comes to ESG:
1. While lawyers should make it their purpose to work towards the green transition, sustainability has now been written into hard law requiring them to address this topic.
2. While lawyers may not have all the answers, they have all the skills necessary to advise on these issues and should work towards finding common solutions.
Before kicking off the first panel, Line Berg Madsen and Sofie Jensen, partner and director at Kromann Reumert respectively, introduced the new reporting requirements of the CSRD with a short presentation. They addressed:
- the timeline and scope of application;
- the concept of double materiality (impact materiality and financial materiality);
- the need to engage top level management;
- obtaining data in the value chain; and
- other practical advice for steps of implementation.
Berg Madsen then proceeded to moderate the first panel consisting of the following speakers:
o Kristoffer Lykke-Olesen, head of ESG/sustainability reporting at ISS A/S
o Jonathan Leonardsen, head of sustainability at Balder Denmark
o Andreas Rasche, professor in the Department of Management, Society and Communication at Copenhagen Business School
o Martin Bang-Löwgren, head of sustainability at Polaris Private Equity
Key findings of the discussion included:
- Use the ESG regulations in a value-creating manner: Deploy a smart mix of
- the management system(s), information and knowledge you have already, and
- the new analysis, information and actions that are/will be required (double materiality assessment etc.).
- Materiality matters.
- Make it useful, not just for compliance or reporting purposes.
- Keep it as simple as possible.
- Define ownership, roles and responsibilities.
- Apply smart systems, including digitals tools, which should be aligned with the legal requirements.
- Keep the purpose of the business and the legislation in mind.
- Take continuous steps to implementation and adjust as needed.
The speakers concluded with their top advice on what can lawyers contribute:
Bang-Löwgren: “Materiality assessment is key; it will help you move from compliance to something that is useful.”
Lykke-Olesen: “Lawyers can make the complex more simple.”
Leonardsen: “Lawyers can help define what it is we need to collect data on, and keep track of relevant topics.”
Rasche: “Don’t overfocus on compliance but ask for the purpose of compliance.”
After a short coffee break, Jensen introduced the second panel session with a presentation on the new requirements of the CSDDD, covering topics such as:
- value chain definitions (upstream, own operations, and downstream);
- the scope of application to EU companies; and
- provisions regarding liability (civil liability, and liability of board of directors).
Jensen then moderated the second panel consisting of the following speakers:
o Linda Nielsen, professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen
o Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, founder & CEO of Global CSR
o Sarah Hempel, head of sustainability at Axcel
o Line Berg Madsen, partner at Kromann Reumert
Key take-aways from the discussion included:
- Avoid approaching ESG regulation with a compliance mindset – rather seek to leverage the process and insights to strengthen your business.
- It’s mandatory. Act now. Don’t wait to get started.
- Ensure the board and top management are well informed.
- Look at your own operations and do your own due diligence – only then can you ask businesses in your value chain to do the same.
- Transparency is key to the whole management system.
- Make contact with NGOs and civil society – they have an important role.
- Know where your risks are, which your risks are and what you can do about them.
- Keep it simple, and don’t over-implement.
- Do it because it’s important for the planet – but it’s also good business.
- If you make decisions that make sense business-wise, the regulators are unlikely to come after you.
The speakers concluded with their top advice to take back to the team:
Nielsen: “Start now with the mapping and gapping to see where the risks are.”
Skadegaard Thorsen: “Implement a management system in your own operations.”
Hempel: “Go back and read the standards. You need to make that investment: read them and implement them. And encourage boards to do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t just think of it as a compliance exercise that you want to make go away.”
Berg Madsen: “Look at the purpose of the CSDDD – what kind of company do you want to be?”
Holst Levin and Bauböck both concluded the event with some brief closing remarks, as attendees were invited to stay on for networking drinks over a selection of vegetarian canapes.