Jenner & Block

Siros Discusses Corporate America's Response to Climate Change at Northwestern University

Corporations’ actions to address greenhouse gas emissions, the key elements for a successful emission reduction strategy, SEC disclosure issues and directors & officers insurance matters were the topics of a recent presentation given by Partner Steven M. Siros to a class at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. 

Mr. Siros addressed members of the school’s Sustainable Manufacturing class, which is studying corporate governance and climate change risks and opportunities.  He said corporations are becoming increasingly cognizant of climate change issues because of the growing pressure to be “socially responsible” and that companies feel they should respond before inevitable regulatory action puts laggard companies at a disadvantage.

To establish a successful program, corporations should first outline a climate strategy, he said, and then focus attention internally to integrate goals and targets inside the organization.  Mr. Siros noted that there are many programs and partnerships to aid companies in addressing climate change in a comprehensive and meaningful manner.

Once developed, companies can focus outwardly and engage important external constituencies that directly impact strategic success, he said.   

Mr. Siros also addressed current SEC obligations that require disclosure of certain environmental related events, although he noted that there is still little SEC guidance concerning climate change issues in general.  He said that several bills now pending before Congress would require investor disclosure of risks related to climate change; additionally, institutional investor groups are continuing to push for SEC guidance on emission-related disclosure obligations.

In addition, Mr. Siros highlighted D&O insurers’ concerns over potential liability for companies’ failure to disclose or inaccurate disclosure of climate change-related matters.  He added that currently, most D&O policies contain pollution exclusion language which excludes coverage for acts or omission. 

Mr. Siros counsels clients on regulatory compliance issues, including matters relating to the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Compliance Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.  As a member of the Climate and Clean Technology Law practice group, Mr. Siros counsels clients on a variety of climate change and sustainability issues, and has assisted corporations in implementing greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.