The focus of this year’s Journal of Corporate and Financial Law symposium was environmental, social, and governance (ESG) in the mainstream market. Eight corporate practitioners, scholars, and leaders were invited to discuss how stakeholder impact is moving to the forefront of global discussions, in addition to the importance of other ESG criteria embodied in corporate financial performances. The pandemic and racial justice issues brought into focus this year have heightened the significance of this larger conversation.
“ESG is an important discussion right now because both environmental and social issues are at stake,” said Symposium Editor Dianna Lam ’22, who is particularly interested in the ‘S’ of ESG. “The discussion around how investors and stakeholders can and are contributing to protecting the future is an important discussion to be heard. Additionally, the discussion with what has and is working in the EU is a great comparison in the U.S.”
The symposium was split into two panels, as well as a concluding fireside chat, on Oct. 23. The first panel focused on corporations’ and investors’ initiatives in ESG and examined how ESG initiatives in the European Union compare to practices in the U.S. Panelists included David M. Silk, partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Stephanie Betts, investment specialist at M&G Investments; and Scott V. Simpson and Lorenzo Corte, partners at Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom LLP.
The second panel turned to the role of stakeholder, exploring how stakeholders have driven ESG to the forefront of global discussions and the best forms of stakeholder governance moving forward. Panelists included: Lisa M. Fairfax, director of the GW Corporate Law and Governance Initiative and Alexander Hamilton Professor of Business Law at George Washington University Law School; Carmen X. W. Lu, associate at Wachtell, Lipton; and David H. Webber, associate dean for intellectual life and professor of law at Boston University School of Law.
Finally, the fireside chat—led by Fordham Law Professor and T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law Sean Griffith—featured Former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Leo E. Strine, Jr. Together, they discussed employees and their roles in ESG.
Since this year’s symposium was held over Zoom, more viewers could attend and a wider net of panelists could participate, according to Lam. “While virtual meetings can be difficult without a solid production plan, my committee was instrumental to the symposium’s success,” she said. “In hindsight, the virtual platform also allowed us to present a wider perspective on ESG, as speakers joined us from Europe and across the United States.”