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Opinion

Lawyers' insights on corporate legal accountability: Johnny White, ClientEarth, UK

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

1.What are the biggest challenges you face in your corporate legal accountability work?

From a climate perspective, one of the biggest challenges we face in our work is overcoming the limitations of ‘business as usual’ thinking when confronted with the reality of the urgent need for climate action. This can lead to greenwashing, or corporate marketing and claims of ‘sustainability’, ‘Paris-alignment’, ‘net zero’ or ‘transition’ which do not stack up with the reality of business decision-making and climate science. Our Principles for Paris Alignment set out our position on these issues.

2.What key opportunities do you see for promoting corporate legal accountability (at the national, regional or international levels)?

Business and human rights frameworks can provide a number of tools and accountability routes for climate-related corporate decision-making, for example regarding the need for expertise regarding different environmental impacts and for coherent integration across business operations. But climate issues must also be ‘mainstreamed’ into other areas of law, for example: corporate, financial, competition and consumer law. Each of these areas offer opportunities for addressing widening corporate climate accountability gaps.

3.What key lesson(s) have you learned in your efforts to advance corporate legal accountability?

It is important to be creative, in bringing the facts of the climate emergency to different areas of law, and strategic, in understanding and maximising impact.