Green Guide - United States: Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland’s ESG practice, co-led by Atlanta-based Herbert Short, spans across disciplines, industries and regions with the ESG Solutions Team advising clients on ESG-related issues. The firm is seeking to integrate the same principles into its own business via its Green Teams.

Short recently advised Oglethorpe Power Corporation, San Miguel Electric Cooperative and Georgia Transmission Corporation on the purchase and remarketing of tax-exempt pollution control bonds with a combined total value of $369.8m. He also co-authored a report with KPMG on climate change and corporate value, among other related publications.

The firm also acted for Bellus Ventures in connection with the establishment of funds to trade carbon emission allowances and carbon offsets both voluntarily and under California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, and advised Freepoint Commodities and Eco-Systems on regulations concerning its conversion of waste plastics into low-carbon fuels.

Another highlight was the firm’s representation of Minnkota Power Cooperative in connection with Project Tundra on what is expected to be the largest CCS project in the world capable of capturing 90% of coal emissions.

A UN Global Compact signatory, the firm is also a founding member of the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, which aims at achieving net-zero emissions in the state of Georgia by 2050. The firm buys RECs for all its US electricity consumption and is seeking to be carbon neutral by or before 2050.

As a global top 10 law practice, Eversheds Sutherland provides legal services to global clients acting for 39 of the Fortune 50, 70 of the Fortune 100, 61 of the FTSE 100 and 128 of the Fortune 200.

With more than 3,000 lawyers, Eversheds Sutherland operates in 74 offices in 35 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States. In addition, a network of more than 200 related law firms, including formalized alliances in Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa, provide support around the globe.

Eversheds Sutherland’s Global ESG Group brings together more than 200 practitioners from various disciplines across the firm’s global footprint to support clients with their environmental, social and governance objectives wherever the clients may be on their ESG journey.

Our Global ESG Group is led by Global Co-Heads Diane Gilhooley and Herbert Short:

In addition to her role as Global Co-Head of ESG, Diane Gilhooley is also the Global Head of the Eversheds Sutherland Employment, Labor and Pensions Practice, leading the group of more than 200 employment, labor and pensions lawyers. She is also a member of the firm’s Senior Management Team and International Steering Group. Diane is based in the UK.

In addition to his role as Global Co-Head of ESG, Herbert Short also serves as the firm’s International Partner as well as Head of Debt Capital Markets. He previously served as the US Energy Practice Group Leader and Co-Head of the Eversheds Sutherland Global Energy Group. Herbert is based in the US.
Eversheds Sutherland also has a comprehensive, global Responsible Business strategy led by our Co-CEOs, Lee Ranson and Mark Wasserman, which incorporates the broader principles of ESG. The details of our Responsible Business strategy are available at:

Eversheds Sutherland’s purpose is to help our clients, our people and our communities thrive. To achieve this goal we have embedded sustainability and ESG practices across the firm.

Recognizing that for many of our clients, awareness and understanding of ESG issues at a global and local level is necessary in order to enhance value while mitigating risk, we harness expertise and coordinate input from subject matter experts around the globe, covering all disciplines and jurisdictions.

Some of the areas on which our Global ESG Group advises include:

  • Leadership and governance:
    • board composition, structure and executive pay
    • board members’ ESG-related duties of care
  • Decarbonization:
    • carbon offsetting
    • clean energy
    • emissions trading
    • e-mobility and sustainable transport
  • Social and human capital:
    • business and human rights
    • data privacy and information
    • diversity and inclusion
    • employee benefits and executive compensation
    • employee/worker protection
  • Business model and innovation:
    • copyrights, patents and trademarks
    • M&A and corporate transactions
    • supply chain procurement
    • timberland
  • Financial services:
    • sustainable banking, finance and debt capital markets
    • sustainability-related disclosure obligations in the FS sector
  • Regulatory compliance and reporting:
    • antitrust law compliance
    • climate change litigation and regulatory action
    • environmental compliance and liability
    • sustainable reporting obligations for corporations
    • tax compliance

In addition to how we help our clients achieve their ESG goals, we also have a comprehensive, global Responsible Business strategy which incorporates the broader principles of ESG. We focus our Responsible Business initiatives in the areas of People, Community, Environment, and Governance & Ethics. As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, we support the ten principles of the Global Compact on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption, and we are committed to making the UN Global Compact and its principles part of our firm’s purpose, strategy, culture, and day-to-day operations, and to engage in collaborative projects which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals.

Additionally, we are proud to be affiliated with collaborative efforts to respond to the global climate change challenge, including: establishing a Net Zero by 2050 or earlier commitment; becoming the first global law firm to be accredited by the Good Business Charter;; supporting Business Ambition for 1.5°C through the Science Based Targets initiative; and becoming a founding member of the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance, the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers, and the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, among other initiatives.

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

Eversheds Sutherland’s Global ESG Group brings together more than 200 practitioners from various disciplines across the firm’s global footprint to support clients with their environmental, social and governance objectives wherever the clients may be on their ESG journey. The Global ESG Group is Led by Partner Co-Heads Diane Gilhooley, who also leads the firm’s Global Employment, Labor and Pensions Practice, and Herbert Short, who also leads the firm’s Debt Capital Markets Practice and is the US International Partner. They are supported by an ESG Strategy Team consisting of more than two dozen lawyers who represent different practices, sectors and jurisdictions and are charged with being ambassadors of our Global ESG Initiative. Underpinning our structure is our ESG Solutions Team, which consists of more than 200 lawyers globally who advise clients on the multitude of issues within the broader ESG umbrella. What type of work do you handle in connection with “green change”?

Eversheds Sutherland has advised on climate change and sustainability for more than 20 years. We handle work in such related areas as:

  • Clean Energy and Energy Transition projects, including carbon capture and sequestration; wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies; and clean fuels, including hydrogen, biodiesel and other alternative fuels
  • Divestment/retirement of fossil fuel-reliant assets or investments
  • Procurement of renewable energy by corporations and implementation of on-site electric and steam generation solutions
  • Issuance of sustainable finance products, such as green bonds and sustainable bonds
  • Emissions trading
  • Reforestation and timber transactions, including the creation of carbon offsets through timberlands
  • Climate-related disputes and litigation
  • Advising on climate-related disclosures
  • Electric vehicles and sustainable transportation
  • Carbon trading and the generation, procurement and trading of other environmental credits

Would you like to highlight a particular area of strength?

Our offering is not simply multidisciplinary; it is a holistic life-cycle approach. We provide cross-practice, cross-sector and multijurisdictional support as our clients progress on their journey to decarbonize their operations and their offerings. So whether it is a singular stand-alone service that they require – whether that be support on a green bond offering or procuring renewable energy to power their operations – we can support that, but we can also support them more wholly as they transition their corporate strategy towards a net zero future.

A particular area of strength for our firm is our Global Clean Energy Group, which is composed of lawyers around the globe who advise on clean energy transactions. Our clean energy lawyers have worked on more than 70 GW of renewable energy projects globally. Our team of clean energy lawyers advise across the full project lifecycle, from securing the development assets and feed stocks through to construction and financing and exit.

Has your firm implemented any internal best practices?

Eversheds Sutherland takes both an internal and external view of ESG and sustainability, focusing on the Responsible Business initiatives of our own operations as well as on our client advisory work. The work in these two areas happens concurrently and each occurs in parallel with the other, as we recognize that both tracks need to work together to make the greatest positive impact.

In the US, we have a formal Sustainability Committee and a Sustainability Partner who was appointed nearly a decade ago to head up the Committee.  The members of the Committee are multidisciplinary and includes lawyers as well as business professionals from the firm’s accounting, facilities, marketing and other administrative departments.

Some of the work that the US Sustainability Committee has been able to accomplish include: purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset our energy usage; implementing energy efficient products like lighting, printers and computers; and currently working with an outside climate consultancy to measure our carbon footprint and build a plan that gets us to our Net Zero by 2050 or earlier goal.

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

Eversheds Sutherland is a member of the following:

  • UN Global Compact
  • Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers
  • Net Zero Lawyers Alliance
  • Law Firm Sustainability Network
  • Drawdown Georgia Business Compact

What are your firm’s ESG-related goals?

The Firm’s ESG goals are closely intertwined with our overarching strategy, which embodies each aspect of ESG. We have placed being a purpose-led firm at the heart of our 2023 firmwide strategy, and towards that goal, have implemented a global Responsible Business strategy to create maximum positive impact and momentum. Our Responsible Business strategy is underpinned by four pillars:

  • Environment – The firm has committed to reducing its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 50% by 2030 or sooner and to be net zero by 2050 at the latest. These targets will be reviewed in 2022 with the intention of achieving them more quickly.
  • People – Focusing on DE&I, well-being and professional development and training.
  • Community – Focusing on pro bono work and charitable initiatives.
  • Governance & Ethics – Focusing on conflicts management, risk and compliance and data governance.

Is your firm involved in any relevant pro bono work?

Pro bono work is an important priority for our Firm. Highlights of our relevant pro bono work include:

In the US, we advise the Carbon War Room (a/k/a The Rocky Mountain Institute) on a pro bono basis with the development of clean energy projects in emerging market jurisdictions, including Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. The CWR is an international NGO based in the US that was founded by Sir Richard Branson who founded Virgin Group.

Several examples of relevant pro bono work can be found in many of our other jurisdictions around the globe as well:

  • Water Aid – one of our charity partners; we provide a monthly commercial help line
  • Action for Humanity – we drafted template volunteer agreement for this non-profit that provides aid to people affected by natural and man-made disasters
  • City to Sea – we have provided employment advice for this non-profit that is championing to stop plastic pollution
  • Better Cotton Initiative – we have provided employment advice for this non-profit that is developing a sustainable way to produce cotton

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

Eversheds Sutherland regularly publishes briefings and thought leadership reports on topics within the ESG space. In 2020, we released a major report on Climate Change and Corporate Value, and in 2021, we launched a follow-up report on Climate Change and the People Factor. Our client briefings can be found on our ESG webpages at:

Additionally, we also produce regular videocasts and podcasts on ESG-related topics, which can be found on our ESG podcasts and videos page at:

Finally, we regularly deliver presentations at industry conferences and one-on-one to clients on topics under the ESG umbrella. For example, in 2021, we presented eight panel programs at Climate Week NYC, ranging from sustainable finance to greenwashing to climate change disputes, and are currently planning a slate of five programs for the 2022 conference, including panels on supply chain diligence, greenwashing, ESG disclosures, voluntary carbon markets, and the intersection of climate change and international dispute resolution.

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

One of our stand-out matters in the US is the development of Project Tundra, the largest carbon capture facility in the world. Amish Shah and Madeleine Tan are currently advising Minnkota Power Cooperative in the development of Project Tundra, which upon completion will be the largest carbon capture project in the world with an ability to capture 90% of the CO2 from Minnkota’s coal-based power plant.

Another matter that stands out showcases that we have been involved in energy transition matters for some time now. In January 2019, we advised Shell on its acquisition of Greenlots (now known as Shell Recharge Solutions), which is an EV solutions provider and which has become the foundation of Shell’s electric mobility business in North America. That transaction is notable because it demonstrates that as early as 2018 (when we began work on that assignment), we were already advising clients on the beginning of their energy transition journey. Since that transaction, our group has advised Shell on multiple other EV-related assignments, including its acquisition of Berlin- and London-based ubitricity group, a provider of EV on-street charging and billing solutions.

Additionally, Eversheds Sutherland has been advising corporations in the US in the procurement of energy from renewable energy projects since the corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) market was in its most nascent stage nearly 10 years ago. In total, we have assisted in the procurement of more than 6 GW of renewable power for multiple Fortune 500 companies.

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

Our Global ESG Initiative was formally put in place at the start of 2022, but our focus in this area has been growing organically over many years. Our Clean Energy Team has been in existence for nearly two decades now, so we have been at the forefront of clean energy since its inception. We started focusing on the energy transition about three or four years ago as we started seeing indicators of market interest in a green transition – for example, the number of corporate clients who were looking to procure renewable energy for their operations. We were also seeing a transition in traditional oil and gas companies repositioning themselves towards a green economy and pivoting their strategy.

Two years ago we collaborated with KPMG on our first climate change report, “Climate Change and Corporate Value,” which was one of the first pieces of thought leadership in the market that drew a connection between a company’s climate-risk preparedness and corporate value.

In 2021, our report on “Climate Change and the People Factor,” was one of the first reports to look at how the energy transition may affect the people side of organizations – how boards are adding members with sustainability expertise at the highest level of their organization and the upskilling and retraining needed to capitalize on the energy transition.

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

A combination of client demand, business trends and market shifts, and our own convictions as a Firm have driven our involvement in the green transition. Our clients are increasingly asking for support in ESG; they are being charged to run ESG initiatives at their organizations and need advice and guidance in the numerous areas that fall within the ESG umbrella.

However, our internal values have also motivated us. As already mentioned, we have had a US Sustainability Committee going back a number of years and a commitment to deliver on our Responsible Business initiatives. The firm’s strategic review in 2019 included extensive consultation with the partnership, the wider firm and key clients. The desire to place ESG, sustainability and a deeper commitment to being a responsible business at the top of our priority list was the outcome of these consultations.

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

The Firm has a strategic plan to grow our work in the ESG space, and the formation and formalization of our Global ESG Initiative is a part of that strategy. Our immediate task is to pull together the different threads of work that fall within the vast umbrella of ESG in order to ensure that all of our attorneys around the globe are aware that we have immense experience in this area and already have extensive experience in this space.

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

We see greater collaboration in this space coming from the legal community, in terms of know-how and best practices. We are seeing it already with groups like the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers, the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance and the Law Firm Sustainability Network. The response to climate change and the transition to a decarbonized economy is a complex issue, and the solution will require collaboration from multiple stakeholders – individuals, government, the private sector and experienced and knowledgeable service providers like our firm.