Green Guide Profile: PLMJ


Leading Portuguese firm PLMJ has established a multidisciplinary responsible business practice co-led by the firm’s managing partner Bruno Ferreira and Andre Figuereido. The firm stands out in particular for its work in the sustainable finance sector.

In a recent matter, Figuereido and Raquel Azevedo acted for a consortium of banks including Caixa and Banco Comercial Portugues on the issuance of green bonds with a value of €150m to Greenvolt, a Portuguese listed company in the renewable energy sector. They are also currently leading the firm’s capital markets team in advising REN on a €5bn medium term note programme, which includes a new section on the client’s ESG objectives and commitment to sustainability goals.

In a notable ongoing highlight in the energy sector, Ferreira and head of the firm’s energy and natural resources team João Marques Mendes are assisting ReGa Energy with the structuring and implementation of a project that aims to produce green hydrogen, green oxygen, and biomethane from electrolysis with a renewable energy source. The firm assists on both the renewable energy project consisting of solar and wind plants, as well as the renewable gases generation unit (the electrolyser).

On a pro-bono basis, the firm is assisting Pangea, Europe’s first large-scale nature reserve and sanctuary for elephants rehoming from zoos and circuses across the continent. Additionally, the firm helped create Urbem, a Portuguese NGO aiming to create urban biodiversity spaces through the planting of urban forests to promote sustainable living.

Internally, the firm’s two largest offices have been recognised as certified green buildings.

PLMJ’s Responsible Business area is headed by Bruno Ferreira, who is the firm’s managing partner and works in the Banking and Finance and Capital Markets practices, and André Figueiredo, the partner who heads these practices. The team is multidisciplinary and includes lawyers from a number of practice areas that are essential to offer a 360º approach to these matters. They include Capital Markets, Banking and Finance, Energy, Dispute Resolution and Tax.

Bruno Ferreira: “Business activity is subject to an increasing number of demands that are forcing managers to expand their scope of vision considerably. These demands result from the pressure exerted by investors, consumers, employees and governments that companies should consider a set of interests other than simply maximising shareholder profit, and they are framed at the environmental, social and governance (ESG) level. Today, thinking about and acting on the strategy of any company must take into account an analysis of the business operations from this perspective of responsible conduct. These new circumstances have created a wide range of risks that may result in very substantial negative impacts, particularly in terms of reputational damage, loss of business and even legal liability”.

André Figueiredo: “We live in an increasingly sophisticated world in which companies have been called upon to place sustainability regarding issues such as financing, reputation and governance at the heart of their strategy. All these matters are no longer peripheral, but rather drivers of growth. This framework is particularly essential in a context of growing internationalisation and competition. Specialised legal advice is critical to the success of this strategy and PLMJ is especially well-prepared to support this movement”.

Sustainability is a priority on all fronts of our lives. At PLMJ, we strive for a low environmental footprint and to leave the world a better place than we found it. We also seek to make use of our skills in working with clients, to support them through legal services that improve their businesses and operations and help them move towards sustainability.

Sustainability is about meeting today’s needs while allowing prosperity for future generations. Therefore, as lawyers, we should spend as much time thinking about the future as we spend thinking about today. The way we face human and environmental challenges is inextricably linked to our professional activity.

We should ask ‘how will we contribute to the world we want to live in in 5 years?’, and the answer to this question should define the lawyers that we want to be. The future of our profession and our world depends on how we all answer this question.

We are focused on always seeking the best solutions to mitigate the impact of what we do and on ensuring balance in the lives of our people. As a result, we want to go further and proactively contribute to solving social and environmental problems. We believe, above all, that it is always possible to give value back to society without losing sight of the principle of prospering from our work. We base our business ethics on this balance of managing and mitigating our impact on the environment and on society on the one hand and building a project that is economically sustainable and constantly growing on the other.

We advise companies and investors on the full range of environmental, social and governance issues, helping them turn challenges into business opportunities.

The business world is subject to an ever-growing wave of demands that are forcing managers to look well beyond their normal horizons. These demands result from the pressure exerted by investors, consumers, employees and governments for companies to consider a set of interests that go beyond simply maximising shareholder profit, and they involve environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

This new reality brings a wide range of additional risks that can result in substantial negative impacts, specifically in terms of legal liability, reputational damage, and loss of business. The risks are complex, and they are aggravated when business operations have an international dimension or involve a multiplicity of relationships in their value chain. However, this new world also brings opportunities and leadership in the various ESG factors creates a new way to stand out from the competition and to improve performance while looking beyond traditional economic performance benchmarks.

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

Yes, we have been working on ESG related matters for a number of years, but we decided to formalise our work in this area with a multidisciplinary team focused on the wide variety of ESG issues.

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

We advise companies and investors on the full range of environmental, social and governance issues, helping them turn challenges into business opportunities.

Social and sustainable finance

Issuance of green bonds, sustainability linked bonds and transition bonds

Setting up social entrepreneurship companies and funds, and assisting in their impact investments

Setting up collective investment undertakings with investment policies that include ESG criteria

Business and human rights

Compliance programmes

Human rights policies

Human rights reporting, including non-financial statements

Human rights impact assessment

Human rights due diligence, including for the supply chain and other partners

Investigation of events and crisis management involving human rights

Representation in human rights litigation

Corporate and human rights training programmes

Establishment of remedial programmes

Business ethics

Internal procedures, including codes of ethics and conduct

Review of compliance programmes and internal culture

Training programmes

Analysis of situations of conflicts of interest and establishment of remedial programmes

Corporate governance due diligence

Has your firm implemented any internal best practices?

Yes. PLMJ’s social impact strategy seeks to expand our tradition of social intervention with the greater consistency of applying impact metrics and considering external aspects of our actions. We are going further by trying to avoid any negative impacts of our activities and contribute proactively to solving social/environmental problems in our community.

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

PLMJ is involved in various projects and we are particularly proud to be one of the founding partners of Maze-X. This is a  4-month pan-European startup accelerator programme based in Lisbon for impact tech-based. It provides impact entrepreneurs who are solving the worlds’ most pressing problems with the resources, skills, and network they need to escalate their solution, attract investment, and achieve their vision in order to maximise their impact.

We have also been supporting the project Girl MOVE Academy. This is a Grassroots Leadership Academy that creates innovative models of education to amplify talent, increase gender equality and promote sustainable transformation through programmes that are intertwined by this special way of seeing, doing and receiving mentorship. This leading academy creates real value and impact in Mozambique and in the world. It does so by designing and implementing initiatives to co-create solutions to test and validate ideas aimed at responding to the social challenges of its ecosystem. It also seeks to find impactful solutions with the potential to be scaled and replicated.

What are your firm’s ESG-related goals?

We have launched our first Sustainability Report following the GRI standards and have made a number of commitments for the short, medium and long-term. We recommend checking it out at The key areas that came out of our materiality assessment were: well-being and mental health, diversity and inclusion and responsible business.

Is your firm involved in any relevant pro bono work?

PLMJ has a long history of pro bono work and it has always been a cornerstone of our culture.

Besides our growing pro bono initiative campaigns, we have recently:

Created a pro bono team to help with questions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic;

Helped set up a Covid-19 legal support task force team to assist the Corações com Coroa(Hearts with a Crown) association. Corações com Coroa is a non-profit association founded in 2012 to defend human rights, in particular, through projects dedicated to the empowerment of girls and women;

Helped to create Urbem, a Portuguese non-profit association, whose object is “the creation of urban biodiversity spaces, through the planting of urban forests, with the purpose of creating bonds between the community and nature and promote sustainable living”. We give pro bono assistance, from the very beginning, in all matters, so we are true partners. Additionally, to help Urbem succeed, we have supported it in order to give substance to the idea, and to exist legally in order to pursue its mission;

Entered into a protocol with VPA – Valor, Propósito, Acção, an Angolan NGO that promotes the social and intellectual development of young Angolans. We recently contributed to two campaigns: training of librariansto run mobile libraries in Angola to expand access to books/education; delivery of 100 kits of school supplies for an orphanage in Benguela that is home to 80 girls;

Partnered with Angola’s largest incubator, Acelera Angola, advising start-ups that have a main social impact drive;

Gave pro bono assistance to the NGO Um Pequeno Gesto Uma Grande Ajuda (a Little Gesture A Great Help, in English) in its day-to-day activities in Mozambique – it supports poverty relief, education, health, infra-structures and community development;

Helped launch Portugal’s first social impact fund and a social impact accelerator;

Supported ten social impact start-ups;

Through TTA (a member of PLMJ Colab) we have been providing pro bono assistance in its day-to-day activities to the NGO Um Pequeno Gesto Uma Grande Ajuda (a Little Gesture A Great Help, in English),created in 2007 in Portugal that also has a branch registered in the UK. It is focused exclusively on Gaza Province in Mozambique and on underprivileged school-age children and their families. It supports projects in the area of poverty relief, education, health, infra-structures and community development.

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

PLMJ is assisting Eco Wave Power in the implementation of a very innovative wave energy project (onshore) in Portugal. It will allow Eco Wave Power to begin official licensing procedures for its wave energy project (for 20 MW) designed for Portugal. The official licensing procedures for the 1 MW pilot project have already begun.

This is provided for in a framework agreement signed with the Leixões Port Authority, APDL and Eco Wave Port, envisaging the future execution of a concession agreement. PLMJ represented Eco Wave Power in all the opening procedures of a subsidiary of Eco Wave Power in Portugal and we also took responsibility for handling the licensing procedures for the development of the project. This is a very innovative project concerning the production of renewable energy using ocean waves through an onshore technology never implemented before in Portugal. It will work as an experimental concept to be further developed in Portugal – which is a country with a significant potential to develop wave energy projects. Eco Wave Power is a Swedish company, founded in Tel Aviv Israel in 2011 and it is listed on Nasdaq First North Stockholm.

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

It has been a combination of personal beliefs, the business case and the expectations of our own people and our clients. We believe, above all, that it is always possible to give value back to society without losing sight of the principle of prospering from our work. We base our business ethics on this balance of managing and mitigating our impact on the environment and on society on the one hand, and building a project that is economically sustainable and constantly growing on the other.

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 continuous growth. Lawyers are in a privileged position of influence, both in terms of policy and in the support we give to clients, and thus, lawyers play an increasingly important role in pushing the ESG agenda further ahead.