Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Mr. Eamon Ryan TD, was the keynote speaker at Matheson’s ESG Summit, Sustainable ESG: Charting the Road Ahead this week. The virtual summit, with attendees from Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US, saw business leaders from AIB, Microsoft, Smurfit Kappa, Brookfield Renewable (in the process of being re-named as Ørsted) and FTI Consulting, give their insights into the key challenges and opportunities for businesses in adapting to ESG changes. A snapshot poll of attendees revealed that two-thirds (65%) of respondents ranked ESG within the top five risks for their organisation. Consistent with this, just over half (51%) stated that their organisation had put an ESG / Climate Action Plan or Strategy in place in the past two years, and about a quarter (24%) have had a Plan or Strategy in place for more than two years. 24% do not yet have an ESG or Climate Action Plan or Strategy in place. The poll also revealed that decarbonising (58%) and compliance with reporting disclosures (57%) are the biggest challenges currently facing their businesses.
Finally, over two thirds (68%) of the audience believed that Ireland could become a leader in renewable energy, illustrating that businesses see ESG as an opportunity and not just a necessity. Indeed, respondents also envisaged opportunities for Ireland as a global leader in the areas of clean technology and in sustainable finance.
Michael Jackson, Managing Partner, Matheson said, “As we stand almost halfway through 2021, already it is shaping up to become a milestone year in the fight against climate change. Minister Ryan recently published the Climate Action Bill which, when enacted, will commit Ireland to halving emissions by 2030 and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Ireland is now on an ambitious pathway. In Europe, the Commission is forging ahead with its Green Deal to ensure that all EU countries will be climate neutral by 2050. It is working towards a new policy landscape, aimed at greening all sectors of the economy. Together with President Biden’s pledge to halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we are now witnessing tangible moves towards transformative regulatory change ahead of November’s 26th UN Climate Change Conference - COP26. As we move forward on this positive path, we must not lose sight of the monumental tasks, nor underestimate the enormity of the challenges, which lie ahead. There are many views about the correct path to take and many competing priorities. This will mean that difficult decisions require to be taken. It will be essential to ensure continued open dialogue and consultation, so that the solutions adopted are ones that will protect our planet in a manner which is truly sustainable.”
Garret Farrelly, Chair of Matheson’s ESG Advisory Group and Head of Matheson’s Energy and Natural Resources and Utilities, and its Projects and Infrastructure Groups, said, “I would like to thank our speakers for their time and participation in our inaugural ESG summit. The topics discussed by the Minister and by our two panels may have differed slightly, but they both contain the same message. ESG is here to stay and, while key challenges lie ahead, presents significant opportunities for our clients as well as our communities. What was obvious from today’s discussions is that Ireland’s leading businesses are moving forward in a strategic way to ensure that we as a business community and as a country are prepared for and can proactively engage with the direction which is being set by both the Irish Government and internationally by the European Commission and beyond.”
The Summit heard from senior business leaders from the technology, financial services, renewable power, packaging, and consulting sectors, together with members of Matheson’s ESG Advisory Group. The speakers provided their practical insights on the key challenges and opportunities for businesses in adapting to ESG changes, sectoral responses to emerging legal, regulatory and policy changes, and impacts on investment and business strategy. Over the course of two panel sessions, the speakers were: Mary Whitelaw, AIB plc; Kourtney Nelson, Microsoft Corporation; Ken Bowles, Smurfit Kappa Group plc; Ciaran O’Brien, Brookfield Renewable (in the process of being re-named as Ørsted); Jonathan Neilan, FTI Consulting and Matheson Chairperson and member of Matheson’s ESG Advisory Group, Tara Doyle.
The MC for the summit was Sally Anne Stone, Partner in Matheson’s Commercial Real Estate Department and member of Matheson’s ESG Advisory Group. Fellow ESG Advisory Group members, and Matheson partners, Susanne McMenamin and Garret Farrelly chaired the two panel discussions.
- In March of this year, Matheson became one of the first Irish law firms to establish a dedicated Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Advisory Group. This cross-sectoral legal services group assists companies in navigating and responding to the rapidly evolving ESG landscape. Led by 12 partners, it is chaired by Garret Farrelly. The members of the ESG Advisory Group are: Garret Farrelly (Chair), Tara Doyle, Sally Anne Stone, Kimberley Masuda, David O’Mahony, Richard Kelly, Susanne McMenamin, Nicola Dunleavy, Bryan Dunne, Anne-Marie Bohan, Louise Dobbyn and Alan Keating. Tara Doyle currently serves as Chair of the Irish Funds ESG Sustainability Working Group and is a member of the European Funds and Asset Management Association’s Stewardship, Market Integrity, ESG Investment Standing Committee. Matheson clients also have access to an online ESG resource hub of knowledge and insights from the Advisory Group.
- As a leading Irish law firm, Matheson is committed to environmental, social and governance standards. Its cross-firm Sustainability Committee is tasked with ensuring that the firm continues to meet its sustainability objectives. of creating a sustainable operation and reducing its carbon emissions. The firm is a founding signatory to Pro Bono Pledge Ireland, an initiative which calls on legal professionals in Ireland to commit to promoting access to justice by providing free legal assistance to those in need.
- Matheson is an Irish law firm. Its primary focus is on serving the Irish legal needs of internationally focused companies and financial institutions doing business in and from Ireland. Matheson’s clients include the majority of the Fortune 100 companies and it advises 7 of the top 10 global technology brands, 7 of the world’s 10 largest asset managers, and over half of the world’s 50 largest banks. Matheson is headquartered in Dublin and also has offices in Cork, London, New York, San Francisco and Palo Alto. Matheson employs over 720 people across its six offices, including 97 partners and tax principals, and 520 legal, tax and digital services professionals.
- Matheson holds the Gold Standard Award from the Irish Centre for Diversity in recognition of the firm’s development and implementation of people-focused D&I initiatives. Matheson was the first organisation in Ireland to be awarded this accreditation.
- Matheson has been named Ireland’s largest law firm by the Law Society of Ireland, following the annual publication in 2021 by the Law Society of practicing solicitor numbers in Ireland in February 2021.
- In April 2021, Matheson was named Ireland Law Firm of the Year at the Chambers Europe Awards 2021.