Assessing the Risk and Impact of Climate, and Social and Human Capital on a Corporation: An In-house Counsel’s Perspective

Mary Kennard, Vice President & General Counsel (retired), American University, USA

With the exception of the few skeptics, climate change has been acknowledged worldwide, and climate change is impacting our environment globally. Companies, and the things we produce, and the way we live, are impacting our environment and not always for the better. Today, our environmental, social and economic challenges are intensified by the impact of climate change. As in-house counsel, we have a role in assessing and reducing the impact of climate on our environment. I believe we also have a duty to do so. As counsel, our job is to measure risk and report objectively to our clients about risks, as well as the opportunities presented by those risks. It therefore seems obvious that in addition to measuring other types of business risk, in-house counsel have a duty to both measure and assess the impact of climate-risk on their clients’ business. Although there is increased tension between profitability and good corporate citizenship, both may be achievable if appropriate care is given to transparency and timely disclosure of climate-risk.

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USA Environment University June 2018 Vol.11, No. 43, Spring 2018

Mary Kennard

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Mary Kennard is currently an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Washington College of Law at American University. In addition, for the past 23 years, she served as the Vice President and General Counsel for American University. Having recently retired, she serves on a number of boards including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society national board, the HERS Institute at the University of Denver, and the National Student Clearinghouse. She is a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and a past Board member of the ACC, Secretary of the ACC Board and Chair of Membership. For 8 years, she served as the General Counsel for the public higher education institutions for the State of Rhode Island, prior to joining American University. In 2018, Ms. Kennard will begin serving as a public member of the Middle States Accreditation Commission, and an American Bar Association law school site team member.

American University

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American University is a 10,000 student institution with programs in 40 world capitals. The University is comprised of five schools including a law school. AU has 7000 employees and operates on 80 acres in the District of Columbia. AU has a number of LEEDS certified buildings and has a vast number of programs that support its environmental sustainability efforts including trash recycling, commitment to carbon neutrality, living wage, and workforce training and wellness programs.

USA Environment University June 2018 Vol.11, No. 43, Spring 2018