From sustainability efforts and diversity, equity and inclusion programs to labor management and board governance, companies and institutions are sharply focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, actions, and goals — or are ramping up their strategies on these fronts. With a wide array of stakeholders — ranging from investors, stockholders, consumers and customers to employees, regulatory authorities, and communities — demanding impactful ESG programs and reporting, companies and institutions are seizing ESG opportunities while striving to mitigate risks.
In this rapidly evolving ESG landscape, attorneys in Saul Ewing’s ESG Group advise businesses and institutions across industries on ESG matters in multiple areas, including:
- Providing analysis of and guidance on current and potential ESG regulations
- Advising on public ESG disclosure requirements
- Providing advice on clients’ current and future ESG initiatives, including net-zero emissions targets and operation transitions, and board of directors’ ESG oversight roles
- Drafting policies and procedures related to ESG in a variety of areas, including carbon emissions, waste management, recycling, material sourcing, equitable workforces, labor management, workplace safety, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, cybersecurity and privacy (including GDPR), and community relations
- Training employees on implementing policies and procedures
ESG Risk Management
- Analyzing legal risks posed by ESG, including becoming the target of public interest groups and environmental justice considerations on projects that impact underrepresented communities, such as environmental permitting, waste and emissions, and carbon emissions
- Evaluating climate-related financial risks to operations, such as production and supply chain management, and identifying legal strategies to address these risks
Transactions & Agreements
- Conducting due diligence on the ESG-related components of transactions, such as environmental compliance and employment practices
- Drafting and negotiating agreements across the ESG spectrum, including renewable power purchasing agreements, and evaluating the ESG components of vendor and partner agreements
Litigation and Government Enforcement
- Environmental, including matters related to project permitting; cost recovery actions under CERCLA/Superfund and comparable state laws; environmental justice; and enforcement proceedings under CERCLA/Superfund, RCRA, the Clean Water Act, and other federal and state environmental statutes
- Securities, including investigations into ESG-related statements later alleged to be materially inaccurate or misleading, and any litigation that may follow
- Labor and employment, including employment and disability discrimination (e.g., under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA))
- Cybersecurity and privacy, including disputes, class actions or enforcement actions as a result of security breaches and privacy law violations
Saul Ewing's multi-disciplinary ESG team includes attorneys from practices across the firm, including Environmental, Energy, Corporate, Labor and Employment, Cybersecurity and Privacy, Litigation, White Collar and Government Enforcement, and Real Estate.
Saul Ewing attorneys have advised on these select ESG-related matters:
- An energy company in negotiating a landmark settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Justice related to the company’s voluntary self-disclosures of probable wetland and stream violations associated with natural gas well sites. Our team also counseled the company through an internal environmental audit of more than 500 natural gas well pad locations in Pennsylvania, covering more than 14,000 acres of land.
- A Fortune 500 waste disposal and recycling company in all aspects of its business operations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, including landfill permitting, compliance, enforcement, land use, transactions and litigation, for nearly 40 years.
- An interstate natural gas pipeline company as environmental permitting, land use, and litigation counsel in the successful defense of appeals of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Certificate Orders issued to interstate natural gas pipeline companies, in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, other appeals pending in Washington D.C., and the Second Circuit and Third Circuit Courts of Appeal.
- An international specialty metals and chemicals manufacturer in a CERCLA and Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act cost recovery and contribution action initiated by PADEP, who is seeking to fund a cleanup of industrial solvents and metals in soils and groundwater that are alleged to have discharged from historical operations of the client’s former metal tubing facility in Pennsylvania.
- A leading manufacturer of electronic components in navigating its strategy for and response to multi-million dollar claims filed in Canada alleging PCB contamination arising from the operations of a former Canadian subsidiary.
Labor and Employment
- A restaurant in successfully obtaining dismissal of all claims by a former employee alleged negligence and violation of anti-discrimination laws following her termination resulting from a physical fight that occurred at the workplace.
- A construction industry employer in defense of multi-party wage and hour litigation in federal court under FLSA and state wage laws involving multiple pay rates, project labor agreements and joint employer issues.
- A Fortune 100 company in defense against threatened ADA Title III and state privacy class actions involving accessibility of several company websites.
- Several major universities in reviewing the accessibility of online courses and responding to government audits of those programs.
- A popular museum in Philadelphia in auditing the accessibility of its websites and apps.
- A Pennsylvania university for whom we prevailed in a case in which a terminated employee sued the university for age and gender discrimination.
- A global courier service company in numerous individual solar applications and in negotiating PPAs, license agreements and solar equipment lease agreements for states that do not permit PPAs for use with a solar provider at multiple locations across the U.S.
- A Pennsylvania university in its 20-year PPA with an affiliate of a hydropower energy generator to purchase the output of an approximately 10.9-megawatt hydro facility that the energy company will construct at an existing dam in Pennsylvania. We structured the form of the PPA, supported the negotiation of the PPA and provided due diligence on assessing the viability of adding the electric generation to the existing dam.
- A health system corporation in drafting and negotiating a virtual power purchase agreement with a solar project owner for a fixed-for-market price financial “swap” with the off-site renewable energy facility.
Cybersecurity and Privacy
- A hospital system in the successful defense of class action litigation alleging improper collection and disclosure of patient information.
- An Internet gaming company in advising on a security breach of its membership lists.
- A university in leading a data inventory assessment and the creation of tailored data governance policies and procedures.
- A multinational manufacturing company in creating tailored privacy training programs for data governance and compliance.
- A multinational retail company in revising its privacy policies and reviewing data collection practices in connection with GDPR compliance.
- A nonprofit in bringing its privacy policies into compliance with the GDPR and privacy laws of Canada.