Legal Areas

Corporate Social

We advise companies on all legal aspects of responsible business conduct, developing customised solutions with the companies in order to take proper account of the increasing importance of sustainability and ESG (environment, social, governance) aspects in business. Specifically, the aim is to identify the opportunities and risks associated with sustainability and ESG aspects for the respective company and to align the corporate strategy and operational business accordingly. This also includes a reasonable approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR), not least for reputational reasons and to avoid liability risks.

Taking a proactive approach to responsible corporate governance creates competitive advantages, facilitates loans and reduces economic risks. As always, the law sets parameters for corporate activity. Considering the correlation between ESG and law is therefore of fundamental importance. Another aspect is that there has recently been a significant increase in the number of ESG-specific regulatory measures and regulatory projects. This concerns in particular the areas of sustainable corporate governance, sustainability reporting, sustainable finance and climate protection / energy transition.

These days, the focus is especially on the new national Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains (Supply Chain Act) which will come into force on 1 January 2023, as well as a corresponding regulation project at the European level. For the first time, binding human rights due diligence obligations will be given a legal foundation for the companies directly affected. However, numerous other companies will be indirectly concerned by pass-through clauses in supply contracts.

In the area of sustainability reporting, the EU Commission is revising and expanding the so-called Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). According to sections 298b et seq., 315b et seq. of the German Commercial Code (HGB), currently only large capital market-oriented companies with more than 500 employees are subject to the NFRD. Irrespective of these reform plans, non-financial reporting must take into account the EU taxonomy for environmentally sustainable activities in the future. It is equally relevant for the sustainable-related disclosure obligations of financial market participants and financial advisors (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, SFDR).

Finally, the number of legal disputes dealing with sustainability is increasing significantly. A milestone in this respect was the decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court on the state's obligation to protect the climate, which resulted in a promt increase in the emission reduction targets in the German Climate Protection Act.

Our clients appreciate that we always provide practical advice. Our experts are well connected with sustainability experts in companies, chambers of commerce and consulting firms and are therefore very familiar with the current status of the implementation of ESG measures, but also with the challenges, beyond specific legal issues.

After publishing the first comprehensive work on the topic of "CSR and Law" in 2015, our experts are currently working on a commentary on the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act which will be published in 2022. In our newsletter "ESG and Law" as well as in blog posts (all newsletters and blog posts can be found at the bottom of this page), they also regularly inform on current trends and developments in the field of sustainability / ESG / CSR.

CSR concept and code of conduct

Our significant experience and know-how allow us help you develop and implement the right CSR concept for your company. This includes, for example, designing or reviewing your company’s code of conduct, formulating CSR terms and conditions for suppliers, and providing training on international issues or sector specific frameworks.

Good corporate governance and the liability of corporate officers

We provide comprehensive advice to managing directors and executive and supervisory boards on which CSR measures fall within their discretionary powers in light of the specific circumstances of their company. We clarify which CSR measures may be necessary in order to ensure that fiduciary duties are met or to avoid the risk of personal liability.

Non-financial reporting

Our team advises large, listed corporations, which have more than 500 employees and which are subject to non-financial reporting requirements under the German law implementing the CSR Directive, as well as small and medium-sized companies that are only indirectly affected by these obligations.

Human rights due diligence

We help our clients fulfil their human rights due diligence obligations under the NAP, assisting them with the implementation of all required elements:

  • Mission statements on respect for human rights
  • Procedures designed to identify any actual or potential adverse impact on human rights
  • Measures to prevent and mitigate any adverse human rights impact, as well as further processes designed to review the effectiveness of these measures
  • Reporting
  • Complaint mechanisms

Crisis situations

It is vital that you act swiftly whenever you discover that the actions of your group or your suppliers have adversely impacted on human rights. Claims for damages, negative media coverage and damage to reputation can quickly escalate to alarming levels. We can advise you on how best to deal with all stakeholders in such situations. In particular, we assist with the adoption of measures designed to cease and mitigate any adverse impact on human rights, such as by terminating business relationships, and regulate any ensuing damages. Where necessary, we represent your company in civil damages procedures. Finally, we work closely together with our D&O specialists to provide you with support where there are indications that members of your executive or supervisory boards may be liable for damages.