Green Guide Profile: Arias

Costa Rica

Central American full-service firm Arias’ commitment to increasing its focus on sustainability and integrating ESG into its service offering is exemplified by its hiring of Costa Rica-based Roberto Cordero, formerly at EY Law, as head of its environmental and ESG group in February 2022.

Also in Costa Rica, Diego Gallegos, Vicente Lines, and Carlos Ubico are seasoned in assisting their clients in cooperating with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) regarding solar energy: Administrative law practice head Ubico advised Real Infrastructure on PV installation negotiations with ICE, and Natural Partners on the provision of solar panels to ICE; project finance expert Gallegos and energy and infrastructure expert Lines are acting for Green Generation Go in ensuring regulatory compliance in the provision of solar panels to ICE. In two other highlights, Gallegos advised Althelia Sustainable Ocean Fund on the provision of a $5m loan to Martec to support its sustainable aquaculture practices, while Lines is representing ReFeel in the $7m sale of Proyecto Valle Escondido I, one of the largest solar facilities in the country, to BMR Energy.

In 2021, the firm launched a net-zero programme to formalise its carbon reduction measures and ESG strategy. This includes various policies and best practices for greater energy and water efficiency, waste management,  measuring emissions across its offices, training local teams and pro bono work.

Comprised of an experienced team with both a legal and engineering background, Arias ESG team includes lawyers specialized in environment, health and safety, quality, and food safety. We also have knowledge in labor as an added value to the team in relation to occupational health and safety, two closely related areas that allow a more comprehensive approach to advice our clients.

We also have lawyers specialized in human rights, which also allows us to provide a holistic perspective of the ESG factors to our clients, taking into consideration strategic and operative aspects, real problem solving and avoidance of green and social washing.

Up to 35 years of experience combined at the service of our clients in the region, promoting sustainability as the road to business success and continuity.

Roberto Cordero – Partner, Regional Head of sustainability / ESG



Gabriela Delgado – Environmental Specialist



Catalina Rivera – Associate, Labor, Health and Safety specialist



Carolina Lazo – Partner, Arias El Salvador, Head of Environmental Law Practice



Rodrigo Ibarra – Partner, Arias Nicaragua, Head of Environmental Law Practice



Rosa Maria Arenales – Partner, Arias Guatemala, Head of Environmental Law Practice



Maria Elena Barrientos – Partner, Arias Guatemala, Senior Associate

When global and domestic companies doing business in Central America need guidance on environmental legislation of specific projects and activities, they regularly turn to Arias for counsel. Our scope includes:

  • Environmental due diligence
  • Filing for licenses and permits
  • Supervision and review of environmental impact studies
  • Forest laws
  • Zoning and development restrictions
  • Water Law
  • Land and maritime zone regulations

Our firm provides comprehensive sustainability services:

  • Identification of legal requirements and elaboration of the compliance matrix
  • Environmental, Occupational Health, Quality and Safety Compliance Assessments
  • Environmental Litigation (Judicial and Administrative área)
  • Environmental Regency (Environmental Viability)
  • Environmental Performance, Health and Safety Audits (Performance Excellence)
  • Environmental and Social Due Diligence for mergers and acquisitions
  • Environmental crisis management
  • Training and advice on legal and voluntary sustainability issues
  • Analysis of implications of draft laws on the environment, health and safety
  • Environmental management systems and circular economy
  • Carbon Footprint and Carbon Neutrality
  • Sustainability strategies in the value chain (suppliers, customers, consumer)
  • Comprehensive waste management plan and advice on zero waste certifications
  • Water footprint and energy efficiency

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

Arias has established the bases for an integral team consisting of lawyers, engineers (forestry, biotechnologist, hydrogeologist, chemical and others) environmental economist, architects and other specialist, either as allied consultants or staff members. When we decided to start de ESG practice we decided, there had to be a difference from the principles of practice, the experience (more than 50 years combined from all team members) and the triple vision capacity, that requires to tackle all Environmental, Social and Governance issues.  No easy job to find the right group of talent and to share the same principle, to advice, give consult and be able to have a solution mind set up, but with the ethical and responsible compromise of the true field experience at hand.  Our Central American Region demands “hands on” approach, and as some clients point it out “lawyers with boots” ready to take the work in action in any site, field or area needed for achieve sustainable excellence.

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

The change that we provide at our ESG practice, goes deeper than compliance reports, carbon footprint, environmental labeling, or ISO audits; we take charge on environmental and social solutions than even the best intended regulations or governance, will not be able to handle the quick needs and changes of our clients needs and the climate change challenge.  That’s why our biggest asset is the resilience capacity to approach each case, every client, and all matters with the principle and ethical compromise to produce a final change, not only for clients needs but to compromise with a true green or planet focus and change.

Would you like to highlight a particular area of strength?

Our Strength comes with the team approach with each endeavor we have to face, with our clients, with new regulations or market requirements, but as well with the commitment, that ethical and sustainable principles are always first when it comes to developing a winning strategy, an environmental or safety audit, as well as any social related practice.  We are also external audits from all major certifications from ISO14001 (environmental), 9001 (quality), FSSC22000 (food safety), 45001 (health and safety), to carbon foot print (14064), SA8000 (social responsibility), rainforest alliance, and others (Agricultural Compliance Manuals for Banana, Coffee and Pineapple).

Has your firm implemented any internal best practices?

Carbon Neutral is one of the first certifications we are focus on obtaining for 2023, since already waste management, energy conservation, and social responsibility are been develop from several years back.

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

Yes, we provide direct support to all American Chamber Commerce Networks in the region, the Agricultural Chamber at Costa Rica; and we have promoted intense training for all of them on ESG issues.  Also we are leaders at the Costa Rican Bar Association Environmental Committee, for legislations review, and environmental training for all lawyers in Costa Rica.  As part of our representation at the Agricultural Chamber we have the responsibility to review new water regulations from the Water Department at the Environmental Ministry´s office.

What are your firm’s ESG-related goals?

In Arias we have a sustainability strategy, consisting of 3 pillars: environment, end of poverty and diversity and inclusion. As part of this strategy, we are currently developing our carbon footprint inventory, looking forward to achieving carbon neutrality while also working in sensibilization efforts in environmental topics to all employees. We are also working with Horizonte Positivo, measuring through the Multidimensional Poverty Index our employees’ situation looking forward to support and promote the wellbeing of all. In the diversity and inclusion area, we annually promote the use of inclusive language and develop sensibilization activities. Through a sustainability policy we commit to work in this initiatives and also to perform volunteer work and probono work, with clear goals every year.

Is your firm involved in any relevant pro bono work?

Arias provides probono services to several organizations, which must also be aligned to at least one of the pillars that sustain our sustainability strategy. We also have goals related to the hours involved in probono work, which involves all levels of the organization.

Some of the organizations we support include environmental associations, organizations that support homeless people in search for social re-insertion and also organizations dedicated to improving education and development of children in social risk, among others.

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

Part of our initiatives include volunteer work. Every year, we open an space for employees to propose volunteering activities or probono organizations, that allow us to contribute in the 3 pillars of our company. Since we also have volunteering time goals, we have an annual agenda of different activities that include tree planting, education activities for people in the organizations we also support as probono (English classes, among others), fundraising activities for organizations, and others.

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

Yes, we have manage to provide advice to several companies on water recycle inside their production plants, use of their biosolids sludge from their wastewater treatment plants for soil improvement (with developing a circular economy approach, promoting low energy use, and waste management principles).   Also we provided advice for a food production company to obtain Carbon Bonds for several operations in Nicaragua and Honduras (although major efforts were performed with joint efforts from other regional firms).  And finally, we are advising and New York base company to represent European Governments partners for a carbon bond investment in Costa Rica.

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

2022 was the start of a project that had been maturing in the planning book of several partners, and with the incorporation of our team, all objectives have been materialized.

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

Team members were the key for the green evolution and clients were ready and anxious to have ARIAS Regional Leadership, to shine through and follow wit exciting markets goals.

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

Our 10 year plan is already been develop and for 2030 we expect to be among the leaders in all Latin American countries, we have already perform outstanding results in Central America, and we have our first South American clients, and next Mexico companies are already asking for our services.

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

Climate change migrations are a must-see issue since it would create a domino effect in all ESG topics, from energy use to water capacity, land use, and social needs and disadvantages.  There are some market-oriented topics, but if we as a legal community want to produce the change that’s needed, then we have to review these issues before they collapse our regional economies and natural resources.