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Lawyers as Leaders

The Essential Role of Legal Counsel in Corporate Sustainability

Within the world of legal counsel, corporate responsibility and sustainability issues remain, in many ways, an emergent field. To increase awareness of the legal issues associated with corporate sustainability, the United Nations Global Compact and the International Bar Association (IBA), with the support of LexisNexis, are producing a video “training manual”. Titled Lawyers as Leaders: The Essential Role of Legal Counsel in the Corporate Sustainability Agenda, the video will consist of four separate modules — one each on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption — and will feature profiles of prominent legal experts as well as general counsel who are leaders within their companies on sustainability issues.

The goal of Lawyers as Leaders is to emphasize the value of corporate counsel in the design and management of corporate responsibility-related policies and practices. Lawyers, in other words, can help their clients to minimize risk while also capitalizing on opportunities in the sustainability field.

While the video is directed primarily at in-house counsel, as an introduction to the Global Compact’s ten principles and issues of corporate responsibility generally, Lawyers as Leaders will hold value for any lawyer or student of the law interested in corporate sustainability issues, as well as for those interested in these issues from civil society and other organizations.

Lawyers as Leader is an ongoing initiative with modules being released over the course of 2010.

Lawyers as Leaders – Human Rights

Lawyer as Leaders – Human Rights, the first of the four modules of Lawyers as Leaders was launched on 24 June 2010 during the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010: Building a New Era of Sustainability.

This inaugural module features:

  • Introduction by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay
  • Analysis and commentary by Caroline Rees, Director of the Governance and Accountability Program of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • Insightful interviews with:

    Prof. John Ruggie
    , UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (part of an IBA webcast from Spring 2009)

    Mr. Mark Nordstrom
    , Senior Labor & Employment Counsel, General Electric Company

    Ms. Debra Valentine
    , Group executive, Legal & External Affairs, Rio Tinto

As part of the Lawyers as Leaders project, supplemental material will also be released with each individual module. For Lawyers as Leaders – Human Rights, these include the extended interviews and the opportunity to discuss issues raised by the video in online forum.

Supplemental material will be released over the course of the next few months.

Lawyers as Leaders – Human Rights is now available online at:

Upcoming Modules

  • Anti-Corruption
  • Environment
  • Labour


Ursula Wynhoven
UN Global Compact