Green Guide Profile: Abreu Advogados


Leading Portuguese firm Abreu Advogados often advises clients in the renewable energy area, standing out for its work in the hydrogen and wind sectors. Integrating sustainability into its own business, the firm is also a UN Global Compact member and a B Corp.

In an ongoing highlight, the firm’s public and environment team is advising long-standing client Iberdrola Generación on a project which adds two wind farms to the Tamega hydroelectric complex, making it one of the largest initiatives in Portugal. The project received investments of €1.5bn and will have a capacity of 300MW. The firm is assisting the same client with all regulatory issues concerning a major PV project in Portugal, the 1.2GW Fernando Pessoa, with a value of €800m, which is expected to be commissioned by 2025.

The team is also providing ongoing legal advice to Copenhagen Offshore Partners on a major wind farm project with a capacity of 6GW which will significantly contribute to the green transition in Portugal.

Internally, the firm has a sustainability committee, headed by Pedro Pais de Almeida, which aims to promote green activities within the firm. It joined the Climate Ambition Accelerator, a training programme for companies looking to improve their performance in terms of setting science-based goals and building a clear transition path towards net-zero.

A number of the firm’s key individuals regularly take part in sustainability-related events. Most recently, José Eduardo Martins, co-head of the firm’s public and environmental practice, was a speaker at the Green Economy Forum 2023; Manuel Andrade Neves participated at a major ESG conference in Portugal discussing public policies for sustainability; and Bruno Azevedo moderated a panel discussing ocean renewables.

The firm also recently co-authored a book discussing ESG and corporate responsibility.

José Eduardo Martins

José Eduardo Martins is a partner and has been at Abreu Advogados since 2005 co-heading the public and environment practice area. José Eduardo is the partner responsible for the environmental law practice area and the Angola and Cape Verde Desks, but he works with all Portuguese-speaking jurisdictions on matters related to the production of electricity, carbon license generation and transactions, environmental asset accounting, water and waste management.

José Eduardo works primarily in the areas of environmental, commercial, and real estate law and is one of the most vastly experienced Portuguese lawyers in the areas of environment, energy and natural resources.

José Eduardo also has extensive experience in the public sector – he has been secretary of state for the environment in the XV Portuguese Constitutional Government, from 2002 – 2004, and a member of the Portuguese Parliament from 1999 to 2012. In 2021, José Eduardo was appointed president of the Environment and Energy Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce Portugal (ICC Portugal).

Pedro Pais de Almeida

Pedro Pais de Almeida is a partner and has been at Abreu Advogados since 2008, working primarily in the areas of tax, corporate and M&A, and financial law. Pedro is the head of Abreu Advogados’ Sustainability Committee and, externally, he has held relevant sustainability-related positions on the board of CAIS – Associação de Solidariedade Social (non-profit organisation for the protection of homeless people) namely as its president, at IES – Social Business School, and at IPAV – Instituto Padre António Vieira.

Pedro has experience in tax arbitration proceedings and is a referenced arbitrator at CAAD – Administrative Arbitration Centre. He also has extensive international experience and has held several positions in international lawyers’ organisations, including, a UIA presidency (November 2017 – November 2018), chairman of the Advisory Board of Consulegis (2013-2015), being also member of the Executive Committee of the International Section of the New York State Bar Association.

Abreu is proud to have been selected in the first Legal 500 Green Guide and hopes to be a positive source of information on the best practices to implement a necessary and urgent Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda.

With the purpose of responding to the growing expectations of the market for the development and implementation of the whole spectrum of legal and commercial issues related to ESG, Abreu’s ESG service was developed to respond assertively to the path that organisations will inevitably have to follow in order to keep up with the rapid transition of the economy that is taking place in Europe, which brings different challenges, especially concerning climate and environmental issues, areas in which legislation has been undergoing constant revision and adaptations – which majorly pressures public and private organisations to monitor and implement the new European and national measures. Recently we have been seeing significant changes that have an impact on the market, particularly in the financial markets, where sustainable investments and the integration of ESG criteria into corporate strategy have become priority criteria for assessing organisational quality and competitiveness.

Has your firm established a dedicated ESG/climate change/sustainability practice, team or task force?

Abreu Advogados has an integrated environmental, social and governance (ESG) service with the purpose of responding to the growing expectations of the market for the development and implementation of the whole spectrum of legal and commercial issues related to the matter. In light of our extensive experience in sustainability and in response to the increasing market demand to address today’s global challenges, the firm’s latest service is led by two Partners for the three core areas of ESG – José Eduardo Martins and Pedro Pais de Almeida. The Partners lead a multidisciplinary team composed of ten lawyers and an of counsel with experience in sustainable finance, M&A, labor, environmental law, litigation, and EU law, among other areas. With an historical experience in this area, Abreu has led some of the main national projects, advising on corporate management, crisis management, social responsibility and sustainability, diversity and inclusion, ethics and compliance matters.

What type of work do you handle in connection with “green change”?

Environmental sustainability is now central to the drafting of public policies at both national and international level – namely with matters like climate change, international requirements related to greenhouse gas emissions, and the emissions trading market. In such regard, Abreu Advogados acted as general counsel in the elaboration of both “Roadmap for Carbonic Sustainability in Príncipe Island” and “Roadmap for Carbon Sustainability in São Tomé e Príncipe Island”, transversal planning tools for climate-neutral political options. Our team provided legal assistance in analysing the legal framework of the Autonomous Region of Príncipe and later of São Tomé – by reviewing and proposing new legislative acts in the environment, waste, energy and water sector, Abreu had an important role in the creation of new legislative instruments that enabled the implementation of sustainable development policies on the western equatorial coast of Central Africa.

Abreu has also legally assisted MSE Consulting in the draft and creation of São Tomé e Príncipe’s legal framework regarding Clean Development Mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol and the UN framework convention on climate change. Concerning the drafting of public policies in connection with “green change”, Abreu is currently working with the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) within the context of updating São Tomé e Príncipe’s basic law on the environment and the decree on Regulation on the environmental impact assessment process (AIA).

Another project Abreu has been assisting in is the drafting of the master plan for the largest closed property in Portugal, with over 7.300 hectares, with the aim of creating the most sustainable property in Europe within a 10-year timeframe – Abreu’s team has assisted the consultant in incorporating ESG criteria and identifying contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Would you like to highlight a particular area of strength?

Ahead of its time, Abreu strengthened its energy and natural resources team – a multidisciplinary team with a varied technical skill set in which the firm’s strategic areas of practice are merged (public law, corporate and M&A, litigation, real estate, finance) – becoming an asset for clients who are radically shifting their operations and business strategy towards a greener and more sustainable reality. An example of this is the assistance provided by Abreu on legal due diligences to assess new investment risks, particularly for the implementation of real estate energy projects.

Abreu has been involved in many other projects allying energy and natural resources and sustainability, from which we briefly highlight: (i) advising Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, the world leader in renewable energies, on project Nortada, an investment of about EUR 8 billion for 2GW of offshore wind power and a project worth a nomination in the 2023 Financial Times Innovative Lawyers in the category Energy Security and Transition category; (ii) the assistance to one of the world’s largest furniture retailers with regulatory advice concerning the in the conversion of parking areas into energy production facilities (eg solar panels) to provide renewable, green and sustainable energy to the shopping and stores; (iii) acting as strategic advisor for Statkraft, the leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, in the purchase, development and sale of solar cell projects; (iv) advising Engie, world leader in zero carbon energy transition, on its renewable energy projects; (v) assisting EDF EN, producer of renewable energy, in several windfarm projects in Portugal.

Has your firm implemented any internal best practises?

In 2015 we became the first Portuguese law firm to be certified as a B Corp, and we are committed to use our practice as a force for good. We want to serve as an example in the construction of a culture that values, supports and promotes best practice at a social, economic and environmental level. We align our action with the ESG criteria, as follows:

  • Abreu Advogados has well established corporate governance standards and its internal best practises have as guidelines the rules stated in its code of conduct which ensures compliance with relevant regulations and industry standards and materialises the moral and ethical principles governing Abreu’s daily activity.
  • In order to foster a culture based on social responsibility values and to encourage a business accountable for its economic, social, and environmental performance, Abreu decided to invest on sustainability reports, becoming the first Portuguese law firm to do so – our commitment to sustainability is deeply grounded on measurable goals and tracking progress over time.
  • In terms of environmentally sustainable practices, Abreu adopts communication systems that favor online meetings and promotes a more sustainable mobility – when traveling abroad, travel options that minimise CO2 emissions are prioritised; within the offices’ circumference and day-to-day activities, employees have BEA – an electric bicycle available for all employees. The firm obtained a carbon neutrality certification for its website by joining the global initiative ‘CO2 Neutral Website’ and has become the first law firm in Portugal to have a carbon neutral website – this certification guarantees that all carbon emissions caused by the website’s operations are subsequently financially compensated by Abreu Advogados, that investment being allocated to sustainability projects.
  • Abreu Advogados is also deeply involved with the local community – in 2023, the firm has registered 2743 hours of pro bono service; Abreu has been a partner of the CAIS Association since 2008 and in 2023, in addition to contributing to the remodelling work that has given the institution’s headquarters a new lease of life, the firm has also involved its employees in a collective initiative to revert to this project; promotes legal literacy through the Justice For All Programme and through the publication of legal literacy manuals; has partnerships with teaching institutions, namely the NOVA Green Lab at NOVA School of Law; and supports many non-for-profit entities that share the firm’s vision and mission for justice and sustainability, namely BCSD, NetMentora, ESELA, Corporate Governance Portuguese Institute.

These initiatives are required and enforced through our Management Quality System. Abreu intends to be a reference in the global law market and assumes as a strategic priority the continuous improvement of the effectiveness of its quality management system (QMS), which meets the requirements of ISO 9001. As top management, the Abreu Advogados’ partners are committed to disclose, comply and enforce the statutory and ethical regulations applicable to the firm’s activity.

Has your firm joined any external ESG-related projects, networks or initiatives?

Abreu is part of different national and international initiatives, and we were pioneers in the Portuguese law firms’ market in many fundamental ones, such as:

  • The Climate Ambition Accelerator programme of the United Nations Global Compact, which aims to help companies fight climate change more efficiently by providing scientific support with the objective of achieving zero net emissions;
  • The global B Corp movement;
  • Periodical Sustainability Reports, with disclosed data such as our carbon footprint and some of the main ESG indicators, thus seeking to strengthen our commitment to society;
  • Carbon neutrality certification for its website by joining the global initiative ‘CO2 Neutral Website’.

Abreu recognises the importance of values inherent to equality and non-discrimination between men and women and develops partnerships in this regard, adding up to a well-established Diversity and Inclusion Policy, namely:

  • iGen – Fórum Organizações para a Igualdade, being committed to reinforcing an organisational culture of social responsibility, and incorporating in our management strategy principles of equality between women and men in work and employment;
  • PWN – Professional Women’s Network Lisbon, which is a global movement that promotes and incentivises professional progress of women;
  • Women Win Win, behind this project is a group of women that believe in the power of community as a lever motivating an entrepreneurial attitude and reinforcing feminine business initiative.

We are also proud to be part of the following:

  • Since 2008 we are members of the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), a not-for-profit association that brings together and represents more than 90 benchmark businesses in Portugal that actively commit to the transition to sustainability. Abreu Advogados is one of the +80 Portuguese companies that signed the manifesto “Towards COP26”, promoted by the BCSD Portugal, which lists 11 goals to stop climate change, highlighting the central role of the business sector in this fight. Signing this manifesto reinforces our commitment and daily effort to make a positive impact on society, in particular ensuring environmental sustainability;
  • We signed up in 2008 to the 10 UN Global Compact principles in the areas of human rights, labour practices, environmental protection and anti-corruption;
  • We are part of ESELA, a network of lawyers, consultants and business people, interested in the role that law and lawyers can have in the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economy, promoting a positive social impact;
  • We actively cooperate with the Corporate Governance Portuguese Institute (IPCG), a privately-held not-for-profit association that aims to promote the spread of practices of good governance as an indispensable instrument of economic efficiency, sustainable growth and financial stability.

What are your firm’s ESG-related goals?

Abreu has been publishing its Sustainability Report since 2007 – 2008 and have adapted its key indicators to the ever-changing global reality, presenting more testimonies from people who have contributed directly and daily to our sustainability strategy and including a more complete analysis of the initiatives we have developed in the previous years.

Using such analysis we were able to thoroughly review every policy implemented – and, consequently, to assess our performance internally and make necessary adjustments to what did not go optimal. Our current goals are to continue to strengthen our commitment to sustainability, increasingly involving our team in all actions developed and implemented in accordance to an annual action plan focused on current issues and identified future challenges, followed by specific initiatives and its respective evaluation KPIs.

We are aware change is happening every day and companies who intend to be innovative and competitive have to take action right away. We are well aware as well of the challenges companies face: between unrealistic demands from political power to the temptation of green washing and the accentuated generational gap regarding ESG topics, there is a risk of being left halfway across this transformation process based on the decarbonization of economies.

However, our goal is clear: to create a dynamic sustainability plan that can both actively support companies and adjust to the way society rapidly changes over time. That’s what we envision.

Is your firm involved in any relevant pro bono work?

At Abreu Advogados, lawyers are actively encouraged to engage in pro bono work and those hours are part of the billable hourly target. It is expected that all lawyers at Abreu dedicate a minimum of 10 pro bono hours per year to render pro bono legal services. To this end, Abreu has a pro bono committee that manages the pro bono rogramme and defines its strategy in line with the firm’s overall strategy. In 2023, Abreu has registered 2743 hours of pro bono service.

Most recently, we have advised the World Youth Day Foundation 2023 exclusively on a pro bono basis – and in total, since 2020, several lawyers at Abreu have provided WYD Foundation with over 2131 hours of pro bono assistance on various legal issues.

The World Youth Day Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that was founded in 2013 by Pope Francis. Abreu Advogados was responsible for providing legal advice to the Lisbon 2023 WYD Foundation throughout the entire process of organising World Youth Day, which was held in the Portuguese capital in August 2023, where over 1.5 million people were present. Abreu’s support began in 2019 on a pro bono basis and lasted until the end of 2023, accompanying the preparation, organisation and balance sheet of the event, and covering all the legal services necessary for the structuring and operationalisation of the initiative. An event as significant and large-scale as WYD presents several legal challenges. Since 2020, Abreu has a dedicated lawyer, under a secondment regime, working for WYD.

Abreu has also been a partner of the CAIS Association since 2008 and has legally assisted (under a pro bono regime) the association in all areas of law ever since. Abreu has as well-developed literacy actions for CAIS through thematic webinars, from which we highlight our program Legal Up 2021-2022 which was specially dedicated to mental health, a crucial topic for the whole community. In 2023, in partnership with Abreu Advogados and Just a Change, CAIS carried out a refurbishment and remodelling operation at its headquarters – Abreu sent its team out into the field to contribute to the remodelling work, which gave new life and a new face to the headquarters of an institution that supports hundreds of people daily.

So far, Abreu has developed over 20 active protocols with non-profit organizations working in several areas, including social innovation; support for people at risk (children and families); circular economy; education; sustainable development; gender equality; sports; community support; mental health; culture; and social exclusion.

Is your firm involved in any public outreach or client education?

We endeavour to contribute to the formation of responsible, caring people committed to sustainable development. Therefore, Abreu’s investment in knowledge and education led to:

  • The creation of one of the most important milestones of Abreu’s strategy: the Knowledge Institute, a non-profit training entity able to provide certified professional training. The Knowledge Institute is positioned as both a research center and a studio lab for the development and delivery of new multidisciplinary projects and services. Around the Institute’s hubs (innovation, legal tech, sustainability and public affairs) the following have been developed:

A. Abreu Sustainability School. Aware of the need to provide future lawyers with tools that contribute to improving sustainability in organisations, in 2020, the Abreu’s Knowledge Institute created the Abreu Sustainability School, aimed at final-year law students. It is already on its successful third edition and provides dozens of hours of training, debates, conferences and networking moments with key speakers from the sustainability and legal sectors;

B. In-House Lawyers 4.0 Course, dedicated to debate and better understand the main issues lawyers in-house are currently facing;

C. Digital Law Course, which included topics such as internet regulations, data privacy, intellectual property rights, and cybersecurity;

D. The “Innovative Research” award, a biennial competition which seeks to stimulate innovative research, relevant to the practice of a leading law firm;

E. The Lisbon Law and Tech Annual Conference, an international event dedicated to the connection between Law and Technology.

  • The Justice for All Programme, an initiative of Abreu Advogados with the magazine Fórum Estudante, which aims to promote legal literacy in secondary education, arousing interest in topics such as justice and law. The programme, developed over the last +10 years, consists of mock trials that allow participating students to analyse concrete cases and assume the roles of defence and prosecution;
  • Promotion of legal literacy through the publication of legal literacy manuals. The first one – Protection of People with Mental Illness: Asset Management – the Scheme of the Adult Accompanied – was published in 2021;
  • Partnerships with teaching institutions:

A. Abreu Chair in ESG Impact – an innovative chair, dedicated to Environmental, Social and Governance dimensions, contributing to the specialized training of law students, which coordinates NOVA Green Lab –, at NOVA School of Law;

B. Abreu Professorship in International Business Law, at Universidade Católica and Católica Global School of Law.

Have there been any recent non-confidential stand-out matters that were particularly innovative, pioneering or complex?

We would definitely highlight the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in São Tomé e Príncipe project. The project “Improving the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable management of land and natural resources in São Tomé e Príncipe”, is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the General Directorate of Environment and Climate Action (DGAAC) of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Environment (MIRNMA) of São Tomé e Príncipe, with the support of UNDP. São Tomé e Príncipe is a small island state under development. In detail, the project aims to globally protect biodiversity services and significant terrestrial ecosystems by strengthening national capacities and structures for biodiversity and natural resource management, integrated land use planning and environmental law enforcement, as well as improving the management of protected areas and the sustainability of coal production through the implementation of four project components: 1) improvement of capacities and structures for the management of biodiversity and natural resources, integrated planning of land use and supervision of environmental legislation; 2) management, monitoring and financing of the protected and main adjacent areas of biodiversity and forest; 3) reduce forest degradation and ecosystem loss due to unsustainable charcoal production; and 4) M&A, Knowledge Management and Gender.

Despite its small territorial size, São Tomé e Príncipe has a significant biodiversity, including virgin tropical forests with a rich and unique biodiversity. Given the population growth there has been a greater demand for natural resources that are essential for the development of the country – which could have disastrous consequences sustainability wise.

Abreu Advogados is legally assisting São Tomé e Príncipe within the context of updating its Basic Law on the Environment (which defines the bases of the environmental policy for sustainable development) and the Decree on Regulation on the Environmental Impact Assessment process (AIA), in order to sustainably use the island’s natural resources and accomplish institutional stability.

Abreu’s team is currently carrying out an analysis of the then-current legal and regulatory system, preparing a legal report with the results of the analyses, main conclusions and recommendations, drafting the regulatory changes and organizing workshops with the relevant stakeholders to present the amended target legislative framework.

When did ESG, climate change and/or sustainability become an area of focus at your firm?

Abreu has long believed that ESG is of urgent priority to irrefutable opportunity. Almost 30 years ago, at a time when this issue was yet to be so present on institutional agendas, Abreu Advogados was a pioneer in the creation of a management model that favoured sustainability and in the development of initiatives in this area.

Abreu has dealt with such matters throughout its existence and its team of lawyers – spanning the different practice areas and industry sectors – are well versed on, and particularly concerned with, matters related to the environment and climate change, the social impact of certain corporate policies and the importance of clear and transparent governance rules and principles.

From day one we have been an institution working actively to create a positive impact on society and to contribute to its development. The fact that we are the first law firm to publish a Sustainability Report, to be certified as a B Corp or to join the National Goal for Gender Equality is a result of the path we have been following and the commitment we have maintained towards sustainability since our foundation.

Abreu not only does not shy away from this effort but has also sought to lead by example. Since it is now more important than ever for successful businesses to keep an eye on global politics and the economic agenda—the question is no longer if or why should your firm be compliant, but rather when—the already materialised legal support addressing those matters was segmented in three different pillars: Strategy and Risk Management (Governance and Risk; Litigation), Risk Analysis and Reporting (Due Diligence and Reporting), and Sustainable Finance (Governance and Risk; Products and Markets).

What has driven your firm’s involvement in a green transition? (Client demand? Business case? Personal attitudes/beliefs/initiatives?)

Sustainability is part of Abreu Advogados’ DNA. This is a commitment that forms part of our identity, that we express with pride in our Code of Conduct and Professional Ethics and that has led us assume an active role building something more than just a law firm over the course of our history.

We believe that the growth of any organisation is anchored in its individuals feeling fulfilled, but this feeling doesn’t just depend upon the organisation to which they belong. It depends on a balance of family, social, environmental and professional factors and our goal is that these factors combine in a perfect balance through the people that form Abreu Advogados. That’s why we will always be a law firm committed to the fulfilment of those who collaborate with us and of the community that we’re part of.

The ESG service at Abreu Advogados is, as well as part of our DNA, a natural response embedded in our ethos to the current and future challenges faced by clients and partners in a fast-paced global context that calls for the review of business models based upon sustainability. Business decision making is inevitable and it’s increasingly clear that a service of excellence may become irrelevant if it is not accompanied by an active concern of the organization with environmental issues and the social impact of management policies.

Moreover, the increasingly prioritized climate transition by the European Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, and included in the national PRR, as well as the Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are direct signs of an undeniable path to be followed, based on the promotion of more sustainable business models, operations and supply chains as well as interactions with the stakeholders (workers, consumers and overall civil society). Since 1993 that Abreu is committed to fully implement a “zero-carbon” approach throughout its hands-on actions whilst becoming the right-hand partner for its clients’ future projects.

Do you have any strategic plans to expand your work or your initiatives in this area in the future?

As law firm we have the rare opportunity to drive sustainability both internally and externally. In the long term, Abreu has defined the need to make clear and concrete commitments in terms of social responsibility and transparency, which are increasingly necessary for a balanced and harmonious social development.

Abreu plans on offering educational resources and workshops to its clients, emphasizing the legal implications, risks and opportunities associated with ESG, whilst engaging with stakeholders to understand their expectations and concerns, and showcasing Abreu’s track record through case studies and success stories of assistance through tailored solutions such as drafting ESG policies and conducting due diligences.

As an ESG-oriented law firm, our goal is to align our clients practices with ESG factors that can have a positive impact on a company’s competitive positioning in the global economy. Through our daily assistance, Abreu works towards this reality whilst adopting an interdisciplinary approach, strategic vision and being fully committed to create long-term added value. In particular we expect to see a shift in the finance sector towards the integration of ESG risk in the system of governance and internal control of banks, investment businesses and issuers of securities and other entities of public interest designated as such by the legal framework of supervision and auditing.

Where do you see the future of ESG/sustainability in the legal community (both in terms of legal offerings and firms’ best practices)?

As awareness and importance of ESG considerations continue to grow among businesses and regulators, law firms will expand their offerings in ESG-related legal services. The need for ESG-related legal services will continue to be driven by clients who want assistance navigating complicated regulatory environments, reducing ESG risks, and taking advantage of sustainable business prospects.

It is expected that ESG considerations will become increasingly integrated into the main practice areas – Corporate Law, Finance, Real Estate, Litigation, Tax – and lawyers will rapidly have to adapt and become more educated and professionally qualified in matters such as environmental law, corporate governance, and sustainable finance. Clients will seek holistic approaches and effective solutions, and the only way to offer them a fully integrated ESG service is for law firms to collaborate with other stakeholders, namely consultants specialized in sustainable matters – knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts will be the key for a successful deliver.