Conference focuses on implementing ESG initiatives and promoting corporate compliance

Experts discussed how companies can promote corporate cultures of compliance and meet regulators’ and stakeholders’ expectations regarding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives during a two-day virtual conference hosted by the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement (PCCE) at NYU Law.

In keynote speeches, panel discussions, and breakout sessions on March 31 and April 2, speakers discussed topical subjects including behavioral ethics approaches to compliance; methods for incentivizing ESG efforts within firms; and the diversity, equity, and inclusion value of ESG strategies. 

PCCE Faculty Director and Norma Z. Paige Professor of Law Jennifer Arlen moderated a session on how enforcement agencies evaluate effective compliance. Alicyn Cooley, PCCE’s Executive Director, moderated a panel on strategies for approaching ESG initiatives and measuring performance.

Selected remarks from the event: 

Bruce E. Yannett ’85, deputy presiding partner and chair of the white collar and regulatory defense practice at Debevoise & Plimpton 
“[Companies should make sure that] compliance is not just a set of rules and policies and procedures that people take a training course on, then forget 20 minutes later, but it’s a way of thinking about how to run the business and it’s a way of making decisions. I’ve got a client who requires his management to ask three questions about every business decision. Is it legal? Is it ethical and is it wise?... You’ve got to have senior executive leadership not just talking about this, but modeling this behavior and making the right decision and walking away from problematic business opportunities, and praising people who walk away from problematic business opportunities.”

Chris Brummer, faculty director at the Institute of International Economic Law and professor of law at Georgetown Law
“These data [showing a lack of diversity among corporate leadership] are really worrisome, in fact, more worrisome than ever. The lack of diversity exacerbates the racial wealth and income gaps, given corporations [provide an important source] of jobs and opportunity in society. And research has shown that inequality tends to trickle down to the rest of the firm. So if you don’t have diverse leadership, it’s hard to be able to engineer diversity throughout firms.”

Alison Taylor, executive director of ethical systems and adjunct professor at NYU Stern 
“As to whether [diversity, equity, and inclusion] should be treated separately [from ESG], I would personally put it under the ‘S,’ I think it is a social issue…. That doesn’t necessarily make it less complicated. You would see HR very often having a role in kind of promotion and performance and recruitment. You might see the supply chain team having a role in supplier diversity. You might be thinking about diversity from the point of view of the pipeline, a community investment. So it's a really good illustration of how even a single ESG issue could be very, very complicated to operationalize internally and require communication and coordination between a lot of departments.”

Posted April 30, 2021