McIntyre, Stavitsky and Foster Discuss Benefits for Businesses of Implementing Environmental Justice Practices


Environmental attorneys Krista McIntyre, Ariel Stavitsky and Wade Foster contributed an article to Corporate Counsel titled “Charting the Course to Implement Environmental Justice Through Corporate Sustainability,” published October 18, 2021. The final installment of a three-part series, the article discusses why implementing an environmental justice (EJ) strategy is good for businesses and why they should not hesitate to do so in communities affected by their presence, and how businesses can strive for EJ in conjunction with efforts to grow corporate sustainability.

Even in advance of regulatory mandates for EJ, businesses are facing increasing pressure from a variety of quarters to articulate EJ principles and execute them. Shareholders, employees, supply (or value) chain partners, and the public are demanding of companies that they be good corporate citizens. Employees expect employers to not only demonstrate an internal commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity but an external one to advance EJ in impacted communities.

Current events such as the Huntington Beach oil spill or those in Flint, Mich., and the attendant national attention, have focused the ire of the public on companies that have hesitated to advance EJ in communities affected by their operations. The authors note that a lack of focus on EJ can also harm a company in ways that are less newsworthy: “…a corporate transaction doomed by latent risks in the supply (value) chain, a C-suite role turned down by a star candidate dismayed by lack of diversity in leadership, a sale rejected for failing to meet vendor EJ requirements. These dead ends are not hypothetical.”

McIntyre, Stavitsky and Foster suggest that EJ principles can be integrated into the Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) framework developed over the last two decades that many companies are using to manage their risk to ensure ongoing corporate sustainability and success. They note that the three pillars of ESG align with EJ. The metrics gathered by an enterprise to quantify environment, social or governance factors that pose risks to its sustainability can also provide data to understand the impacts it is having on local communities, as well as facilitate conversations to advance EJ in disproportionately impacted communities.

The authors conclude: “These three EJ articles outlined the history, the current regulatory landscape, and the initial course that a company might navigate. In these uncharted waters, businesses that incorporate EJ into corporate decision-making and action will be better positioned to ride the rising tide. Those that hesitate may experience a choppier journey.”

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