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ESG, Supply Chain and Product Compliance week: Managing product safety and liability risks, supply chain due diligence, and the future of green claims

Due DiligenceESG, Supply Chain and Product Compliance week: Managing product safety and liability risks, supply chain due diligence, and the future of green claims

In our final week of the Annual Compliance conference, we focussed on key issues being faced by companies on ESG, supply chain and product compliance. Specifically, we discussed the new legal landscape in the EU and UK on product compliance and liability, supply chain due diligence trends and developments, and how to manage environmental, social and governance risks and increasing legislation in the US, UK and EU aimed at cracking down on vague, misleading, or unsubstantiated green claims.

Hot topics & evolving risks in the product safety and litigation landscape
Monday 3 June 2024

SPEAKERS: Kate Corby (Partner, London); Andrew Kinnier KC (Henderson Chambers); Joanne Redmond (Senior Associate, London); and Andreas Neumann (Senior Associate, Frankfurt).

Product safety and liability is a rapidly changing area with a host of new and proposed legislation. The speakers set the scene on product safety by giving an overview of the new EU General Product Safety Regulation and the UK’s proposal for a reformed product safety regime which, if it comes to fruition, could  represent a radical change in the product safety landscape and may result in a rapidly diverging regime between the UK and EU.

In turning to product liability, the speakers outlined key proposed changes to the EU Product Liability Directive, which, amongst other things, is intended to provide easier access to compensation for consumers who suffer damage from defective products. It was highlighted that companies should continue to follow best practice for managing the risk of claims – for example, by ensuring that products are safe by design, post-market monitoring is conducted, and adequate contractual and insurance arrangements are in place.

Our speakers then turned to discussing the current trends in mass product liability claims and the complexities that these present, including the scale and expense of proceedings for both the courts and defendant companies. Practical tips for defendants of such mass claims included identifying the nature and extent of likely disclosure early to gain an insight into the merits of a case, and instructing technical experts early in the proceedings.

The session concluded with an overview of Baker McKenzie’s Product Risk Radar, our online content hub for the latest legal developments in product regulatory and liability risk impacting the UK and EU.

You can access the webinar recording here.

ESG supply chain due diligence – what is the benchmark?
Wednesday 5 June 2024

SPEAKERS: Graham Stuart (Partner, London); Gaetano Vittoria (Global Legal Director, McDonald’s); Christine Streatfeild (Partner, Washington); Thomas Gilles (Partner, Frankfurt); Rachel MacLeod (Senior Associate, London).

Supply chain due diligence has become a key area of focus for organisation and authorities around the world in recent years as the ESG agenda grows and matures. In this session our speakers discussed recent regulatory developments and the challenges businesses face when exercising due diligence.

The session examined the EU’s ambitious new due diligence regimes requiring the active investigation and remediation of adverse environmental and human rights impacts in supply chains, including the EU’s hotly-debated Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and the Deforestation Regulation. The challenges posed by such wide-ranging obligations were highlighted using the case study of Germany, which has already implemented analogous supply chain due diligence laws at the national level.  Current enforcement trends under the US regime which bans the import of goods made with forced labour were also considered.

The panel considered some key practical hurdles to conducting adequate due diligence, including under the Deforestation Regulation which will require companies to have mapped their supply chains, obtained detailed information for a potentially wide range of difficult to trace products or commodities, and to have submitted Due Diligence Statements to the EU’s new Information System by the end of this year.

Leveraging considerable experience working on supply chain due diligence matters, the speakers gave their tips on mitigating the risks associated with an increased regulatory focus, including by taking a holistic view of reporting and due diligence obligations across jurisdictions.

Finally, there was a discussion on how the playbook for lawyers within organisations is changing, with lawyers now required to be more hands-on with the practical aspects of due diligence, such as data collection, analysis, and reconciliation. The session concluded with a reflection that, as part of the toolbox to mitigate risk, companies should increasingly view legal professionals as business partners that must be integrated into the core ESG function of any organisation.

You can access the webinar recording here.

Greenwashing: a limited future for green claims
Thursday 6 June 2024

SPEAKERS: Graham Stuart (Partner, London); Renata Amaral (Partner, Trench Rossie Watanabe[1]); Geert Bovy (Partner, Brussels); Rebecca Lederhouse (Counsel, Chicago); Julia Hemmings (Partner, London).

What do statements such as “carbon neutral”, “sustainable”, and “green” really mean? How can businesses navigate the pitfalls of greenwashing as sustainability increasingly becomes a consumer and regulatory priority?

The speakers began by summarising the full spectrum of greenwashing policy across the EU, UK, the US, and Latin America, from the expanding legislative toolbox of the EU (including the Empowering Consumers Directive and the Green Claims Proposal Directive), to the contrasting approach in Latin America, where businesses have begun to self-regulate their green claims practices in the absence of any specifical legal frameworks.

On the enforcement angle, the session focused on sectors that were subject to particular scrutiny by authorities, including travel, retail, and increasingly, the financial services sector. Coupled with heightened enforcement by authorities, it was noted that companies are also facing increasing consumer claims such as class action lawsuits, particularly in regions such as the US.

The speakers concluded the session with insights into the future evolution of the green claims landscape. In particular, it was noted that increased penalties and new fining powers of authorities are on the near horizon. Going forwards, it is abundantly clear that business face the prospect of balancing a fine line between encouraging and implementing sustainable practices, and not misleading consumers.

You can access the webinar recording here.

The Annual Compliance Conference is held virtually across five weeks from 29 April – 6 June.  Every year it attracts over 4,000 in-house senior legal and compliance professionals from across the world. With a speaker faculty from all regions of our global team, we will be delivering our cutting-edge insights and guidance virtually on key global compliance, investigations and ethics trends.

To access the recordings, click here.

[1] Trench Rossie Watanabe and Baker McKenzie have executed a strategic cooperation agreement for consulting on foreign law.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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