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CLOs Expect ESG Focus to Expand

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The role of Chief Legal Officer (CLO) is on the rise. A CLO oversees the legal department from a big-picture level, as opposed to a General Counsel which provides support in various legal matters. CLO’s have their attention split in many different directions as they set priorities for their legal departments. This includes managing compliance risks for ESG issues.

A new survey from the Association of Corporate Counsel and Exterro shows that the companies using the title have expanded from 21% to 25%, with 77% of CLOs report directly to the CEO. Survey respondents reported the following ESG issues as macro trends causing their organization to improve compliance efforts:

• Changing regulations on emissions

• Customer and investor pressures

• Customer focus on DEI/ESG related to the supply chain

• Customer pressure on carbon neutral plans

• Demands for transparency

• Environmental compliance requirements

Additionally, 69% of respondents indicated that they expect their focus on ESG to accelerate in the future. This is up from 66% in 2021.

With new reporting regulations in the EU, the upcoming SEC climate-related disclosures rule, and the ongoing anti-ESG conflict at the state and federal level, it’s no surprise that ESG is causing headaches for CLOs. The fact that most CLOs report directly to the CEO is additional evidence that ESG is making its way into decision making at the highest levels. The compliance and legal risk associated with management of ESG raise the profile of ESG issues, as companies seek to manage the increasing regulatory and reputational risks.

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