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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.

Author

Kate Corby is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s Dispute Resolution team in London. Kate has over two decades' experience of representing clients in complex litigation and arbitration, with a focus on arbitration of construction, engineering and infrastructure related disputes. She has handled arbitrations under the rules of all of the major arbitral institutions and ad hoc, seated in London and around the world and under a wide range of governing laws. Kate also has significant experience in advising on product liability, safety and regulatory compliance. Kate co-leads the firm's Industrials, Manufacturing and Transportation Industry Group in EMEA.
Kate is also well-known for her inclusion, diversity & equity work, particularly for organising the London chapter of #Arbitration Lunch Match, sitting on the Global Executive Committee of the Equal Representation of Experts Pledge, and she is co-chair of the London office's BakerWomen Affinity Group.
Kate is ranked as a Leading Individual in Legal 500 UK in both her practice areas in which she is described as “hugely impressive, extremely bright and on-the-ball, and has a deep understanding of the client’s needs and what really matters on the case. She is simply brilliant.” Kate is also individually ranked by Chambers, which notes she has “excellent commercial awareness and vision” and “provides excellent industry insight and customer service.” Kate is also recognised in Who’s Who Legal.

Author

Jo is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's Dispute Resolution team in London. Jo advises clients in a wide range of industries on complex commercial disputes and investigations. She also regularly provides specialist product safety and regulatory compliance advice and acts for clients in product liability disputes. One of Jo's other areas of specialism is advising clients on a wide range of regulatory, public and administrative law issues, including judicial review, consultations, freedom of information and public procurement. Jo's practice often involves drawing on crisis management experience to help clients protect their reputations and shareholder value when dealing with urgent, time pressured issues and/or intense public scrutiny. Jo was ranked as a Next Generation Lawyer in the Legal 500 Product liability: defendant category in 2017. Jo has participated in the UK Government's Working Group on product safety and recalls and has assisted with the development of the Government's training programme for Trading Standards Officers on the new UK Code of Practice for Product Recalls.

Author

Dr. Andreas Neumann is admitted as an attorney-at-law in the jurisdictions of Austria, Germany and New York. He is a member of Baker McKenzie’s Public Law Practice Group in Frankfurt. Prior to joining the Firm in October 2015, he gained four years of professional experience as an associate in one of Austria's leading business law firms. In this function, Andreas counseled major international enterprises in the pharmaceutical and telecommunication industries in trade law and regulatory matters. Andreas also spent nine months as a judicial clerk at various sections of the Salzburg District and Regional Court.

Author

Graham Stuart is a partner in Baker McKenzie's London office specialising in product regulation and environmental, health and safety law.

Author

Christine Streatfeild is a Partner in the Washington DC Office and on the Steering Committee for the North America Trade Secrets Practice. She focuses on trade remedies and unfair competition cases, including forced labor investigations, antidumping and countervailing duty cases, safeguard measures, duties imposed for national security purposes (Section 232 duties), and Section 337 intellectual property and trade secrets disputes. She appears before the US International Trade Commission (ITC), US Department of Commerce (DOC), and in state and federal courts. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Christine served as the acting deputy director of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and in the Environment and Natural Resources division of the Office of the United States Trade Representative. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the Krieger School, Johns Hopkins University, where she taught Global Trade, Policy and Competition. She is also on the 2021 USMCA Dispute Settlement Panels Roster (on behalf of the United States), a position she has held since 2019 (under the NAFTA). Christine focuses her practice on matters related to trade regulatory and intellectual property matters, including economic injury and damages, import duty compliance, and unfair competition allegations.

Author

Thomas Gilles has more than 20 years of experience representing German and international clients in mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings and general corporate law matters. He is the Chairman of the EMEA-China Group of Baker McKenzie.

Author

Rachel MacLeod is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's London office. She advises companies on the "cradle-to-grave" regulation of a broad range of products sold on the EU and UK markets. She also advise companies on how to comply with their operational environmental and health & safety obligations.

Author

Renata Campetti Amaral joined the firm in 2002 and became a partner in 2013. She is the head of the firm’s Climate Change, Environmental Law and Sustainability group in Brazil, and the leader of Ablfs McKfnzif’s global climate change group in Latin America. Is also the coordinator of the sustainability initiatives conducted by the office’s B-Green Committee. Renata assists the major players in the Brazilian market in Nature-bases Solution (NbS) projects, transaction of carbon credits, implementation of decarbonization strategies and carbon-related advocacy and regulatory matters. Renata leads several of the largest environmental and regularization cases in the country. She has extensive experience in sustainability matters, as well as in managing crises and negotiating with stakeholders. Advises on negotiating with authorities; judicial and administrative litigation; reviewing environmental aspects of institutions and financial operations; drafting environmental provisions in contracts and other commercial operations. Renata has extensive experience in dealing with environmental management, legal auditing and other organizational practices; regulatory and institutional analysis and environmental control; negotiation and implementation of environmental remediation plans; environmental licensing; legal aspects of biodiversity protection; environmental crisis management; development of preventive policies and strategies for companies; negotiation and drafting of contracts for the purchase and sale of carbon credits and acting in transactions related to various aspects of the energy transition.
*Trench Rossi Watanabe and Baker McKenzie have executed a strategic cooperation agreement for consulting on foreign law.

Author

Geert Bovy is a partner in the in the Brussels office and heads the International Commercial & Trade Practice Group in EMEA and Belgium. He joined Baker McKenzie in 2001. Geert was a teaching assistant in procedural law at KULeuven from 2006 to 2009.

Author

Rebecca helps clients register, protect and enforce their intellectual property in the US and abroad. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Rebecca was a partner at an international law firm and more recently was in-house counsel at a large retailer where she handled brand strategy, brand managing and re-branding initiatives.

Author

Julia Hemmings is a partner in Baker McKenzie's IT/Commercial Group based in London. Together with Helen Brown, Julia heads up the Consumer and Commercial Advisory Practice. Julia joined the Firm in 2001 and also worked in the Sydney office from March 2006 to March 2008.

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