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UK-based Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the UN-backed investor coalition focused on sustainable finance, has flagged both ESG backlash litigation and the reputational risks of greenwashing as risks affecting its own business. Responsible Investor reports that, even though PRI is not currently facing or expecting such litigation:

“The [financial reporting] filed with the UK’s Companies House on Tuesday, warn of a litigation risk ‘largely due to the political environment in some regions, including ‘ESG pushback.’ To mitigate this, the document says the PRI maintains legal advice, has reviewed guidance documents, and updated sign-off procedures for programmes of works and guidance…

The PRI’s accounts also flag reputational risk as a key threat to its business, warning that ‘globally agreed goals on climate and nature are at risk, leading to pushback on claims and approaches used by investors, including accusations of ‘greenwashing’”.

PRI is another organization to find themselves caught in the push and pull of pro/anti-ESG. While the group expects no immediate litigation, the article draws similarities to Ceres, another sustainability network that has come under fire in the US form anti-ESG elements in the US who have attempted to subpoena documents and testimony from the group related to Climate Action 100+.

At the same time, lawsuits alleging greenwashing, and the reputational damage that comes with that, is on the rise. In the world of sustainable finance, multiple jurisdictions, including the US SEC’s climate and ESG task force have been scrutinizing investment portfolios to ensure that they align with their stated ESG criteria. This is another unfortunate indication that, as I wrote last month:

“Anti-ESG doesn’t have to win in the courtroom to win in the boardroom. The perception of risk is enough to influence behaviors even if that risk is illusory. I’m not saying that every antitrust case in ESG is without merit – if they weren’t then we probably wouldn’t see authorities in the EU and UK making ESG carveouts in their antitrust laws. Even so, merit is a secondary issue – the primary issue is winning the rhetorical battle, delaying and frustrating ESG professionals, and moving companies away from ESG. Even those who helped move the needle to begin with.”

Photo credit: Timon –

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile