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Like Crypto, Is ESG Souring?

In spring of 2020, law firm Paul Weiss enhanced its brand (and along the way probably developed plenty of new business) by this: It launched the first-ever in the US specialized Sustainability -Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) practice.

The brainchild of Paul Weiss chairperson Brad Karp, the mission was and is to guide business through the play out of ESG values. Many trigger controversy.

Among the developments has been that, as Karp had predicted, law firms representing clients with legal issues related to ESG have themselves become caught up in the turmoil. An example of that has been Mayer Brown’s representation of Hong Kong University. Yes, ESG has evolved into that powerful a force field.

Like crypto, there has been broad-based interest in ESG matters and their implications.

Also, as with crypto, that might have cooled. And the question is: Will ESG be sustainable as a major concern to business and as an opportunity for investors? There is also the pragmatic issue: What about the viability of law firms’ ESG practices? Will partners and associates in those slots wind up on the chopping block if a recession is severe and long-lasting?

Reuters Legal features two articles looking under the hood in terms of the shareholder push for ESG issues and the ESG Investment niche. Both have been losing momentum. But no one is declaring them yesterday. Not yet.

The possible souring of ESG showcases how wobbly a business is in these volatile times. All of us plow resources into X or Y, betting on growth in those sectors. Then, much of that can produce diminishing returns in revenues and profits. Survival seems to demand rapid course correction. 

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