Legal Advice

ESG Legal

In many cases, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are committed to the region and take responsibility for their actions. This is why environmental, social and governance issues are already an integral part of the corporate strategy of many SMEs.

Com­pa­nies that act sus­tai­nably have a clear ad­van­tage, be­cause the to­pic is boo­ming like ne­ver be­fore and the de­mands are in­cre­asing. Nu­me­rous in­itia­ti­ves more and more are brin­ging the is­sue of ESG into the pu­blic con­scious­ness and ma­king it a hot to­pic in po­li­tics and busi­ness. Ever more le­gal re­qui­re­ments to act sus­tai­nably are joi­ning volun­tary com­mit­ments, even for SMEs.

In the past ten years, nu­me­rous le­gis­la­tive in­itia­ti­ves have been laun­ched that make ESG more than just a fu­ture trend in the le­gal sphere. De­ta­ched from the re­spon­si­bi­lity of large ca­pi­tal-mar­ket-ori­en­ted en­ter­pri­ses, these in­itia­ti­ves also ra­diate onto me­dium-si­zed com­pa­nies, which feel at least in­di­rect pres­sure to im­ple­ment them.

Thus, the Cor­po­rate Sus­tai­na­bi­lity Re­por­ting Di­rec­tive (CSRD) must also be ob­ser­ved by smal­ler and me­dium-si­zed ca­pi­tal mar­ket-ori­en­ted com­pa­nies from 2026. Com­pa­nies with more than 50 em­ployees will have to com­ply with the re­gu­la­ti­ons on whist­leb­lo­wer pro­tec­tion by 17 De­cem­ber 2023, and com­pa­nies with at least 3,000 em­ployees will have to ful­fil ex­ten­sive re­por­ting and due di­li­gence ob­li­ga­ti­ons un­der the new Supply Chain Due Di­li­gence Act by 1 Ja­nu­ary 2023. ESG-re­le­vant re­qui­re­ments exist in al­most in­nu­mera­ble areas.

With the fast de­ve­lop­ment and mul­ti­tude of dif­fe­rent laws, gui­de­lines and other partly al­re­ady bin­ding or (still) volun­tary re­qui­re­ments for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ESG-re­le­vant as­pects, it is easy to lose the over­view. Against this back­drop, SMEs in par­ti­cu­lar should not sit back and re­lax. The early in­tro­duc­tion of sus­tai­nable struc­tures, the le­gally com­pli­ant im­ple­men­ta­tion of le­gal re­qui­re­ments and the pre­pa­ra­tion for laws and re­gu­la­ti­ons that will come into force in the near fu­ture lead to an ad­van­tage in in­dus­try-spe­ci­fic com­pe­ti­tion, an in­crease in the chan­ces of suc­cess and si­gni­fi­cantly drive in­no­va­tion in the com­pany. At the same time, risks are avo­ided for all par­ties in­vol­ved and re­pre­sent an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture to­day.

The to­pic of ESG plays into the re­le­vant areas of com­mer­cial law - from la­bor law to com­pli­ance to com­mer­cial cri­mi­nal law. They have to be ta­ken into ac­count in the re­spec­tive di­sci­pline. Across all areas of law, the fol­lo­wing range of ser­vices is re­le­vant.