14 April 2021

Vodafone flags ESG agenda as it adds Latham, Deloitte and TLT to panel

Vodafone telecoms store front on Oxford Street in central London.

GC Rosemary Martin chooses eight-firm roster to help build inclusive 'digital society'

Vodafone has unveiled its refreshed global legal advice panel, selecting firms based on a shared commitment to promoting diversity targets and environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practice. 

The latest batch of appointments include new additions Latham & Watkins, Deloitte and TLT, as well as current advisors Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Hogan Lovells, Osborne Clarke and Wiggin. 

The UK tech giant kicked off the latest panel review back in December, marking the fourth review under group general counsel and company secretary Rosemary Martin. The company used the latest revamp of its legal panel to reflect its renewed focus on diversity credentials and inclusion initiatives as the ESG movement continues to gain significant momentum across different sectors. 

‘At Vodafone, we aim to build a digital society that enhances socio-economic progress, embraces everyone and does not come at the cost of our planet,’ Martin wrote on LinkedIn. ‘Our purpose is now very much at the core of everything that we do and I am pleased this now extends to our panel of legal service providers.’

Martin said the latest round of appointees had signed up to an ‘ambitious’ set of new collaborative efforts centered on diversity, inclusion, and ESG-related matters, as well as forming “diverse working teams both to manage our relationship and when advising on our matters.” 

‘Finally, we have agreed to a set of mindful working principles, which couldn’t be more important at the present time,’ Martin added. 

The eight firms will also work together to develop the principles outlined by the General Counsel for Diversity and Inclusion initiative, a set of guidelines put forward by an independent group of in-house professionals pushing for greater diversity and inclusion across the legal industry. 

Martin is currently part of the steering group responsible for devising the initiative alongside other big name in-house leaders including Unilever chief legal officer and company secretary Ritva Sotamaa and Shell legal director Donny Ching.

James Touzel, partner and head of TLT’s digital sector team, said the firm’s appointment to the legal panel reflected TLT’s own commitments to diversity and inclusion and ESG targets. 

“We all felt a strong alignment with the client’s core values, particularly on diversity and inclusion, sustainability and social impact,” he said. “We are looking forward to working as trusted business advisors to Vodafone and helping them deliver on their strategic priorities.”

Touzel led the firm through the appointment process alongside TLT telecoms head Daniel Lloyd. 

Jane Park-Weir, Vodafone’s joint client partner at Osborne Clarke, added: “It’s great to be able to continue our diversity and inclusion and ESG journeys together in particular, in parallel with providing a top tier full client service.” 

Vodafone’s panel provides legal advice across a wide range of matters, including commercial, real estate, employment, regulatory and litigation. Past iterations of the panel have included DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland and Squire Patton Boggs, according to The Lawyer.

In January, Coca Cola unveiled a series of diversity targets for its US advisers with the threat that their ability to meet them will be a ‘significant factor’ in determining whether they make its first-ever preferred panel of law firms in 18 months’ time.  Firms who fail to meet the targets will be levied a non-refundable 30% reduction in their fees until they achieve compliance.

The sanctions proposed by Coca Cola were notably harsher than those put forward by Swiss pharma giant Novartis early last year, which said the company would withhold 15% of fees if its targets were not met. 

The Global Legal Post timeline: ESG and the law

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