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ESG and sustainability

ESG competition and collaboration

Competition and antitrust laws around the world are evolving rapidly. Reconciling the need for sustainable solutions with an increasingly complex antitrust environment is a critical challenge.

As international companies across a wide range of sectors increasingly prioritise sustainability initiatives, the collaboration and cooperation required to further this agenda is attracting regulatory scrutiny. From M&A and competitor collaborations to state aid and policy developments, we provide clients with pragmatic solutions to achieve their goals in alignment with an increasingly stringent regulatory background.

With more than 50 partners and 300 lawyers in our worldwide competition team, Freshfields leads in all aspects of sustainability linked competition law, including collaboration and mergers, cartel investigations, abuse of dominance, state aid, follow-on claims and stand-alone litigation. Freshfields is the only firm to have worked on the leading cases in all these areas, and we have been recognised for ESG thought leadership. Our clients recognise that these strengths set us apart so trust us with their most significant matters.

Our competition practice offers unrivalled expertise in international, EU and national competition law matters. Our large, highly integrated team of leading experts in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US work together across multiple locations on a daily basis. Through our contributions to policy debates at national and international levels and our experience across sectors, we are ideally placed to advise clients on their sustainability initiatives and how best to engage with the relevant authorities.

Client successes

In November 2021, WWF-UK launched the WWF Basket (a set of outcomes and measures for UK food retailers to work towards) and the Retailers’ Commitment for Nature (where five signatory retailers agreed to set 1.5ºC science-based targets or SBTs in all scopes near- and long-term by the end of 2022). In November 2022, WWF-UK published its first report on progress made to date and recommendations on what needs to be done to meet its goals across seven target areas. 

Such legal issues are often perceived as a key regulatory barrier to such investors seeking to engage collaboratively with each other and their investee companies on sustainable impact projects. Our report will provide an overview of the securities and antitrust regulations related to acting in concert in the US to provide clearer guidelines for investors on what can be the scope of that collaboration and what are the specific legal guardrails.

This was a novel investigation for the Commission, which led to its first-ever cartel decision relating to technical standards and developments. The case has provided valuable insights into the Commission’s green competition policy and its approach to industry cooperation in this area more broadly.  


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