Bishop & Sewell

As you will know, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has delivered his Autumn Statement for Growth. And bearing in mind he used the word growth, and COP28 starts on 30 November, I thought here we go, he’s going to talk about the environment. But no, he didn’t writes Thom Wilkinson, a Partner in our Property and Environmental Law team.

He didn’t reference sustainability or ESG either. Which set me thinking that ESG specifically has recently taken a bit of a bashing. Some may say, ‘Quite right too’. But the reality is a little more nuanced and needs more understanding. For businesses, ESG is the focus on environmental, social and governance issues. However, over the last few years, many companies have jumped on this bandwagon in the hope of generating extra profits ‘on the quick’. Unfortunately, as ESG is, at best, a set of guidelines to generally ‘do good’, companies have exploited this without full consideration by ‘greenwashing’ i.e. making broad sustainability claims without evidence. As a consequence, some companies now see it bad for companies to be associated with it.

But ESG has never been more relevant. The world needs to be a fairer and kinder place to live in. The ‘80s zeitgeist of ‘Greed is good’ doesn’t work anymore. Yes, profits are needed but not at all costs.

Thankfully, society has ensured that there is some regulation. For example, a well known online clothes retailer found their sales slashed when it was reported that their suppliers where paying below minimum wage in Leicester factories. But the unfortunate fact is that the company (and many like them) didn’t put into place a procedure to check its suppliers were treating their employees well. This is not perfect but at least it’s a start. There is also good news in that the company has insisted in improvements in its supply chains’ practices and sales have subsequently recovered.

And all of leads to what the individual can do to help. Well to start, it helps by thinking ‘every little thing helps’ no matter how small. Several years ago I heard the following anecdote from a contact at another firm:

“After two years plus of dutifully putting all my rubbish into the correct recycling bin, I was working late one evening when I was horrified to see a cleaner with large tongs combine all the rubbish, recyclable and general waste, and put it into one large rubbish bag. My bad, in that I didn’t enquire more about how to stop this, though hopefully I would do that today. “

I think the Chancellor missed a trick in not incentivising either the business community or individuals to think about sustainability. Perhaps the opportunity to discuss this will emerge during COP28, which starts on 30 November and ends on 12 December, in Dubai.

Let’s hope so.


Contact our Property Team

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do get in contact, quoting ref CB434. Thom Wilkinson is a Partner specialising in Property and Environmental Law and is contactable on: +44 (0)20 7692 7581 or

The above is accurate as at 22 November 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 23rd Nov 2023

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