Sustainable Companies Project Conference: Business as Usual is Not an Option

I had the honour of attending the inspiring Sustainable Companies Project Conference in Oslo, Norway. This event was organized by Professor Beate Sjåfjell, of the University of Oslo. You can watch the presentations and debates which challenge us to imagine a new consciousness in which “business as usual is not an option” and committment is made towards realizing sustainable development here.

The aim of the Sustainable Companies Project (2010-2013) was to contribute to integrating environmental concerns better into the decision-making in companies, as one of the important jigsaw puzzles of sustainability. In an innovative approach, this project has had company law as its core, based on the hypothesis, which has been confirmed through our research, that environmental sustainability in the operation of companies cannot be effectively achieved unless the objective is properly integrated into company law and thereby into the internal workings of the company. At this conference, the results of the Sustainable Companies Project were presented by SC team members from around the world. The main topics of the conference included:

Sustainable Companies: The Identified Barriers and Possibilities

A brief presentation of the identified barriers and possibilities in core company law, in the regulation of groups, in accounting law and in financial market law.

Companies and Corporate Governance

A presentation of reform proposals on EU, US and national levels of core company law, notably on the purpose of the company, the role, competences and the duties of the company organs, and the regulation of groups. Topics include the duties of the board of directors, the interests of the company, employee involvement, life cycle analysis, risk management, due diligence and liability. Research on alternative corporate structures was also presented.

Companies and Reporting

A presentation of reform proposals on reporting, accounting, auditing and transparency, including a discussion of what integrated reporting can be and a discussion of the latest innovations in international and national guidelines and codes.

Shareholders and Financial Markets

A presentation of reform proposals on the role of shareholders and the regulation of financial markets. Topics included the role of state as shareholder and of sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors in general.

Supportive Measures

A presentation of reform proposals in areas such as insolvency law and public procurement law, which may support and encourage environmental sustainability in company decision-making.

Speakers included:

Professor Andrew Johnston (Sheffield, UK), Associate Professor Jianbo Lou (Peking, China), Professor Charlotte Villiers (Bristol, UK), Professor Celia Taylor (Denver, USA), Associate Professor Tineke Lambooy (Utrecht, The Netherlands), Associate Professor Surya Deva (Hong Kong, China), Associate Professor Lorraine Talbot (Warwick, UK), Idoya Ferrero Ferrero ( Spain), Professor Karsten Engsig Sørensen (Aarhus, Denmark), Dr. Priscilla Schwartz (London, UK), PhD student Carol Liao (Vancouver, Canada) and Professor Beate Sjåfjell (Oslo).

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