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ESG Blog

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Published on: June 09, 2023


Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues are central concerns for Boards and management teams across New Zealand, with calls for greater transparency on ESG matters coming from a wide range of stakeholders, and increasing levels of regulatory, legal and reputational risk. Organisations that put ESG at the heart of their decision-making will be well placed both to respond to the increasing risks and to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in relation to the full spectrum of ESG issues, including the transition to a low-emissions future.
We aim to keep you up-to-date and provide you with the latest insights into ESG issues facing businesses in Aotearoa New Zealand. Click on the links in the table below to access our latest thought leadership in this area.

Blog authors:

Hannah Bain

Special Counsel

Hannah Wilson

Senior Associate




8 February 2024

Supreme Court allows Smith climate change challenge to proceed to trial

On the 7th February, the supreme court issued its much-awaited decision in Smith v Fonterra, the first case to be brought in New Zealand seeking to hold private parties liable in tort for damage caused by climate change. By unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has determined that Mr Smith's claim may proceed to trial.


8 December 2023

5 key takeaways from the Sustainability Leaders' Summit 2023

Six of our lawyers attended last month's inaugural Sustainability Leaders' Summit in Auckland. The Summit provided an insightful platform of cross-industry discussion and connection between some of New Zealand’s most respected sustainability executives. Here are our top takeaways from the event.


17 November 2023

ESG 2023 round-up and trends to watch

Hot on the heels of the general election, now is a perfect time for organisations to reflect on the year and look ahead to what is in store for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters in 2024. While some developments will depend on the outcome of negotiations to form a new Government currently underway, it is clear that some regimes (such as the climate-related disclosure regime) are here to stay.

In this update, we provide an overview of the status of key ESG-related legal and policy developments, and signal points to watch as we approach the start of 2024.


8 November 2023

the digital download: 2023 - Tech year in review - Episode 2: Green Tech

In Episode Two, our experts - including Russell McVeagh Head of Climate Change Hannah Bain - take a look at the green tech ecosystem of Aotearoa New Zealand, including how recent regulatory development is driving innovation in the green tech space.


8 November 2023

Nature for Business – reflections on our conversation with Vicky Robertson

Last month, Russell McVeagh and Te Whakahaere were pleased to host a "Nature for Business" seminar in Wellington and via zoom with Vicky Robertson, ex-Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment.

In this latest ESG Blog update, Russell McVeagh's Head of Climate Change, Hannah Bain, and solicitors Ashley Donaldson and Sylvia Barnett delve into four key nature trends for businesses to watch, reflecting Vicky's insights as to how businesses can drive change in this area.


26 October 2023

Let's Talk Climate Series - Episode Three

In Episode three, Russell McVeagh head of Climate Change, Hannah Bain, discusses setting emissions reductions targets in a way that avoids the risks of greenwashing and Te Whakahaere Climate Advisor, Mark Baker-Jones explains what a transition plan is and the benefits of setting an effective transition plan.


25 October 2023

2023 ESG Overview - Our Contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand | Tō tātou ki Aotearoa

It is important to us that we deliver on our commitment to help contribute to our communities, to ensure an open and collaborative workplace where our people can thrive, and to understand and manage our environmental impact.


21 August 2023

Australia "greenwashing" updates – guidance and proceedings issued

Three recent developments in Australia signal a continued focus internationally on greenwashing by regulators and other stakeholders. This focus by Australian regulators is echoed in New Zealand, with both the Commerce Commission and the FMA having signalled a focus on greenwashing.

Our experts Hannah Bain, Hannah Wilson and Ashley Donaldson provide details of these Australian developments in this update.

1 August 2023

Government greenlights modern slavery legislation for New Zealand

The Government has announced that it is intending to introduce legislation that establishes a public register to enable transparency over organisations and businesses' supply chains. Organisations with more than NZ $20m in revenue will be required to report on the actions they are taking to address the risk of exploitation in their operations and supply chains.    

This alert outlines:

  1. How the Government's announcement compares to the proposals included in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) 2022 Consultation on modern slavery and worker exploitation;

  2. What organisations subject to modern slavery reporting requirements can expect, with reference to the existing Australian reporting regime; and

  3. Preparatory steps that organisations can be taking now to prepare for the new regime (whether they will have a legal requirement to comply or not).


29 June 2023

Climate-related disclosures update: multiple consultations and guidance documents released

Recently, a number of new guidance documents and consultations were released relating to the climate-related disclosures regime, providing some much-needed direction for climate reporting entities. 

Our experts provide a breakdown of these documents including a summary of the key takeaways in this update.


19 June 2023

Why low-emission credentials are increasingly critical when raising capital

Crown Investors recently issued a position statement outlining the intention to work directly with New Zealand companies with the aim to better meet their climate objectives.

In this Energy Blog update, Mei Fern JohnsonHannah Bain, Peter Callus and Alastair Boswell discuss the position statement in more detail and how this will affect Crown Investors and New Zealand companies.


06 June 2023

Let's Talk Climate Series - Episode Two

In Episode Two, Russell McVeagh head of Climate Change, Hannah Bain, and Te Whakahaere Climate Advisor, Mark Baker-Jones look at potential changes to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and the likely impact for New Zealand businesses.


30 May 2023

Let's Talk Climate Series - Episode One

We kick off our Let's Talk Climate video series with an overview of the Climate Disclosures Regime.

In this series, Russell McVeagh head of Climate Change, Hannah Bain, and Te Whakahaere Climate Advisor, Mark Baker-Jones, examine the key issues organisations are facing in relation to climate change law and policy in Aotearoa New Zealand.


24 May 2023

Climate change directors' duties: High Court of England and Wales dismisses novel claim (ClientEarth v Shell plc)

The High Court of England and Wales has refused permission for climate law firm ClientEarth to proceed with its "first of its kind" derivative claim against the directors of Shell plc. In this Climate Change Update, we provide a summary of the claims alleged by ClientEarth and the decision of the High Court. We also discuss how this decision may impact Boards in Aotearoa New Zealand and key takeaways that could be relevant outside of the UK and within New Zealand specifically.


16 May 2023

Freshwater allocation under the Natural and Built Environment Bill

Environment, Planning and Natural Resources partner Daniel Minhinnick and senior solicitor Kirsty Dibley authored this piece which considers the new approach to freshwater allocation under the Natural and Built Environment Bill (NBE Bill), which was first introduced in November last year. They discuss the key aspects of the new proposed approached, the potential impacts and the overall implications of these various changes.


28 April 2023

Open for consultation: Climate Change Commission's advice on the second emissions reduction plan

The Climate Change Commission released its draft advice on the second emissions reduction plan yesterday, covering the 5-year period from 2026 - 2030. In this Climate Change Update, we provide a summary of the key points and an overview of the advice, as well as sector specific recommendations and more. 


21 April 2023

Enabling renewable energy generation and electricity transmission in Aotearoa – new consultation documents released

The Government announced its proposed package of national direction tools to strengthen Aotearoa's planning framework to provide for and enable renewable energy generation and electricity transmission. This update discusses the new proposals in more detail including the proposed national policy statements and national environmental standards, and provide an overview of the timeframes and next steps involved.


14 April 2023

Climate Change Commission urges Government to reduce ETS unit supply and raise trigger prices

The Minister for Climate Change released the Climate Change Commission's second annual advice on the Emissions Trading Scheme unit limits and price control settings, covering the period 2024-2028. In this Climate Change Update, we provide a summary of the Commission's advice with a table explaining recommended settings and notes explaining key features of the advice. 


31 March 2023

Reform of the emissions trading scheme: changes on the horizon

The Aotearoa New Zealand Government announced that it is reviewing the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. In this update, Special Counsel Hannah Bain, in collaboration with Te Whakahaere's Mark Baker-Jones and Melanie Baker-Jones, discuss this Government announcement in more detail including key takeaways and the scope of review.


30 March 2023

RBNZ seeks feedback on guidance for managing climate-related risks

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand - Te Pūtea Matua (RBNZ) is consulting on a draft guidance for the financial sector on managing climate-related risks. In this Climate Change update we provide you with the key takeaways and recommendations from the guidance.


03 March 2023

AML/CFT Act review: Draft regulations released for consultation

The Ministry of Justice released for consultation its "AML/CFT Early Regulatory Package", which includes an exposure draft of proposed regulations. The draft regulations are intended to implement a number of the recommendations which were made in the Ministry's 2022 report on its review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.


02 March 2023

Action by Australian regulators highlights greenwashing risks for financial institutions and other businesses

Two developments in Australia highlight the ongoing focus by regulators overseas on greenwashing, with lessons for New Zealand businesses.
First, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has begun first-of-its-kind court proceedings against Mercer Superannuation (Australia) Limited (Mercer) for alleged greenwashing in relation to superannuation investment products. And secondly, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that it will be investigating a number of businesses, following an internet sweep which found that more than half of the reviewed businesses "made concerning claims about their environmental or sustainability practices.".


16 February 2023

Climate Change Outlook 2023

Against the background of a summer of wild weather and a looming general election, 2023 looks to be a year in which there will be intense focus on current and future climate change law and policy. This update provides a summary report which outlines the key developments expected in the climate change policy space over the next year and beyond. 


03 February 2023

Environment, Planning and Natural Resources: What to look out for in 2023

There's plenty to look out for in the resource management sector for 2023. To help you get ahead, our Environment, Planning and Natural Resources experts Allison Arthur-YoungDaniel Minhinnick and Simon Pilkinton have prepared a timeline of developments that are on our radar for this year.


19 December 2022

XRB issues final climate standards broadly in line with exposure drafts

The External Reporting Board (XRB) has released its final climate standards. In this update, Special Counsel Hannah Bain and Senior Associate Sarah DeSourdy Hastings in collaboration with Te Whakahaere's Mark Baker-Jones and Melanie Baker-Jones set out some practical tips for those CREs that are working towards their first reports and summarise the key changes.


29 November 2022

High Court dismisses judicial review of Climate Change Commission advice

The High Court dismissed a judicial review challenge by Lawyers for Climate Action New Zealand to the Climate Change Commission's May 2021 advice to the Government. In this update, Senior Associate Hannah Bain and Te Whakahaere Director Mark Baker-Jones share their combined insights and key takeaways from this recent decision.


11 November 2022

Spotlight on net zero pledges: greenwashing advice released

This update provides our latest thinking on greenwashing risks, we also comment on the relevance of the report to businesses operating in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) that have or are looking to set net zero commitments, before going on to summarise the report's key recommendations.


04 November 2022

Judicial review of climate change decisions: key themes from recent key cases

Judicial review claims are becoming increasingly common as a way of testing government decision-making on climate change. In this Climate Change Update, Hannah BainChris Curran, and Emmeline Rushbrook set out some key themes emerging from recent cases in NZ and the UK.


27 October 2022

Investing in utility scale solar in New Zealand: top 4 legal considerations

With development of utility-scale solar projects increasing considerably in NZ over the last 12 months, our Energy Blog team examine the top four legal considerations for anyone looking to invest in utility-scale solar projects in NZ.


12 October 2022

Government seeks feedback on pricing agricultural emissions

The Government released its Te tātai utu o ngā tukunga ahuwhenua - Pricing Agricultural Emissions consultation document, seeking feedback on a proposed new system that would, for the first time, price New Zealand's agricultural emissions. This update considers the key components of the consultation document, including key changes from the recommendations of He Waka Eke Noa, and outline timeframes for consultation.

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