As a firm that has been working at the forefront of the clean energy sector for over three decades, we understand the existential threat posed by climate change and recognise the UK’s potential to lead the transformation required to build a sustainable future for current and future generations.
We work with organisations active in all sectors of the economy and understand the decarbonisation challenges they face. Our aim is to work with them to deliver a green recovery that has sustainability and resilience at its heart.
Here you can find out more about what we are doing to support the green recovery and promote a sustainable way of doing business.
Working with clients
The race to reach net zero has ramifications for all parts of the economy and all sectors. In November 2020, the UK Government published its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. There is a huge amount to do, both to generate more clean energy and to decarbonise our economy. We can help you navigate the challenges, the policies and the legislative drivers that will lead to all businesses becoming sustainable and help create a more resilient economy.
Set out below are some of the sectors in which we are working with clients to help them overcome the challenges they face and seize emerging opportunities.
Clean energy – landmark clean energy projects across the UK
Our Clean Energy Group, which is led by Clare Foster and comprises more than 90 lawyers, has been a leading legal advisor to the energy sector for over three decades. We have advised on landmark clean energy projects across the UK - the projects we work on range from sub £1 million right up to the largest syndicated deals of over £2 billion, and our practice extends across the whole spectrum of energy technologies. We benefit from a varied client base ranging from private individuals and entrepreneurially-led businesses through to large corporates (including many from the FTSE 250), charities and public sector organisations, all of which face challenges in the race to net zero. Whether it is a clean energy generation project (in one of the mature technologies or one of the innovative technologies which are now under development) or a decarbonisation project, the team is here to help you navigate the challenges and achieve your objectives.
Pensions – ESG factors in investment decisions
A range of new environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment and reporting duties for occupational pension schemes has been introduced in recent years. As a key source of capital, pension schemes are uniquely placed to assist the green recovery through long-term stewardship and investment.
The Shepherd and Wedderburn pensions team is working closely with our scheme trustee and employer clients to support them through this crucial aspect of their day-to-day operations. Key elements of our advice include: ensuring scheme funding documents, including statements of investment principles reflect the new statutory requirements; navigating the range of new ESG reporting and disclosure duties alongside scheme investment consultants; and balancing trustees’ fiduciary duties to members and ensuring the security of benefits.
With the Pension Schemes Act 2021 promising further developments – including new considerations around climate reporting and scheme risk registers – ESG issues will remain a significant feature of pension schemes work for some time to come, and a priority focus for many pension scheme trustee boards. Our pensions team will continue providing specialist support to clients to help make the green recovery a reality.
Corporate finance – clean tech and investment
Technology companies have the potential to turn the tide in the climate crisis, but an approach focused on collaboration and innovation is vital to ensure the development, and deployment, of essential green technologies, many of which are fledgling ideas in the minds of some of our most promising developers.
Working within a shared technology ecosystem can foster a much-needed culture of collaboration among emerging green technology companies. At Shepherd and Wedderburn, we have witnessed first-hand the benefits that our support of the Launch Academy established by Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult can bring.
This national technology accelerator for the offshore wind industry was established to enhance the UK’s supply chain, support cost reduction through innovation, and connect the offshore wind industry, academia, advisers, funders and promising entrepreneurs. The accelerator has helped bring to market new technologies – from novel blade sensor technologies to asset optimisation and robotics solutions – and bring new SMEs into the offshore wind supply chain.
The correct advisory support will play a critical role in the green technology revolution; now is the time to roll up our sleeves and help our green technologists lead the world. Our corporate team works with start-ups, scale-ups, university spin-outs and innovative early-stage businesses to secure funding and drive the development of new technologies, in addition to acting for leading domestic and international companies, FTSE 100 blue-chip clients and green funders.
If you have a green technology business and would like to discuss further how we can support you to achieve your ambition, do get in touch.
Banking – ethical/sustainable finance critical in the race to net zero
Banks and financial institutions have an essential role to play in delivering the finance needed to support the economic recovery from the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19.
With financial services regulators emphasising the critical importance of ensuring every financial decision takes climate change into account, we are focused on supporting our clients across the financial sector with tailored advice on ethical finance to promote sustainable ways of lending and borrowing that contribute to a green recovery.
We act for banks, financial institutions, corporate borrowers and sponsors and our finance lawyers have expertise in a wide range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Our support for lenders and borrowers covers areas such as the application of the Green Loan Principles and the Sustainability Linked Loan Principles in syndicated and bilateral lending transactions. We also offer advice to financial institutions on transitioning towards a sustainability-focused loan book and can support high street lenders and specialist funders on green mortgage products for homeowners.
Housebuilding – sustainable construction, retrofit of existing housing stock, heat networks and EV charging points for new builds
The housebuilding industry is at the vanguard of the battle against climate change, with an estimated 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions attributable to buildings and construction. Growing demand for houses in shorter timescales, intensified economic pressure, developing technology and increased legislative and regulatory change present our clients with increasing challenges. This sector is central to the green recovery in deploying greater energy efficiency methods and materials, and building and equipping homes in a more sustainable way.
Our wide expertise in advising national and SME housebuilders, and our commitment to operating a sustainable business, with Shepherd and Wedderburn having committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, focuses our advice to housebuilders on the fast changing legislative and regulatory landscape. We are committed to supporting our clients, who are adapting to changing consumer demand for sustainable heating, electric vehicle charging and increasing buyer appetite for net zero homes.
Rural – forestry, rewilding and carbon sequestration
Our rural team is committed to helping Scottish landowners and tenants do business sustainably, whether assisting them in developing renewable energy projects or supporting them on environmental matters to safeguard and preserve our natural heritage.
In addition to advising clients on ‘traditional’ forestry and agriculture matters, such as selling or purchasing woodland or landed estates, we support clients on a wide variety of sustainability initiatives. These range from drafting carbon sequestration agreements and putting in place carbon capture schemes for landowners and purchasers of carbon credits, to supporting clients who have invested in sustainable woodland by documenting access arrangements.
Our rural team includes three specialists in agricultural law accredited by the Law Society of Scotland, Hamish Lean, Stuart Greenwood and Emma Robertson, each of whom has expertise and a deep understanding of agricultural practices and works regularly with clients to facilitate more sustainable agricultural practice. This includes advising on rewilding projects and working in partnership with charities to regenerate native woodland.
Green recovery - the regulatory framework
The green recovery calls for fresh thinking from a regulatory perspective and we are working with leading businesses in the UK and overseas on innovative projects to drive forward this agenda.
These include the development of fresh approaches to incentivising and remunerating investment into green energy networks, and the deployment of new green technology infrastructure, including sustainable heat networks, energy storage (including green hydrogen technology) and smart metering.
In tackling many of these projects, we have to take into account the way in which UK regulatory policy (such as subsidy control) is evolving in light of the UK’s new relationship with the European Union. Our work in this area also covers consumer protection, for example in relation to the issue of ‘green washing’ and the risk of misleading energy consumers.
In addition, we are working with various organisations on the development and deployment of innovative e-mobility products and services designed to shift vehicle design away from the use of fossil fuels as part of wider efforts on transport decarbonisation.
At a strategic level, we are advising on the interplay between the power sector and other regulated sectors (such as aviation) and how tensions between the different regulatory regimes, such as in relation to renewable development, can be better managed.
Green recovery initiatives
Shepherd and Wedderburn is involved in a wide range of initiatives to foster dialogue and further the green recovery agenda. Our lawyers recognise the importance of collaboration and are immersed in a number of initiatives which are furthering efforts to decarbonise and to help reach Scotland and the UK’s net zero goals.
Here are some examples of the initiatives in which we are helping drive change.
The Edinburgh Climate Compact
Clare Foster, our Head of Clean Energy, is a Commissioner on the Edinburgh Climate Commission. She was asked to lead the city partnerships work stream, which led to the development of the Edinburgh Climate Compact. Launched in December 2020, the Compact is a commitment by leading businesses and employers in Scotland’s capital to take action within their own organisations and sectors to contribute to a green recovery and radically reduce the city’s carbon emissions.
The Compact already has a number of City Climate Champions who have committed to moving “forward, faster, together” to accelerate a green recovery, to celebrate the new normal of sustainable business practice and showcase what is possible through collaboration.
Shepherd and Wedderburn became the first professional services firm to become a City Climate Champion in early 2021 and we encourage any organisation interested in joining to get in touch. Working together we can make a real different in the race to decarbonise.
Shepherd and Wedderburn has been headline sponsor of the All-Energy conference since 2015 and its clean energy specialists have spoken on a variety of topics over this period - including offshore and onshore wind, the wave and tidal market, and sustainable cities. Our aim is to share knowledge, to encourage debate and connect people.
Path to COP26: strategic partner to the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI)
In the run-up to COP26, which was hosted in Glasgow in November 2021, Shepherd and Wedderburn was a strategic partner to the Global Ethical Finance Initiative’s Path to COP 26 campaign, which aimed to: engage with financial institutions and organisations to amplify the pressing need for climate action and showcase existing efforts; assist the financial sector to accelerate practical efforts to tackle climate change by signing up to relevant agendas; and provide a platform to connect and share knowledge to address industry challenges and to highlight leading practice.
We have been honoured to be involved in a number of GEFI events, including chairing various sessions relating to green finance at the last two ethical finance summits.
Sponsoring the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s Economic Blueprint
Shepherd and Wedderburn was a strategic partner in the production of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s 2021 Economic Blueprint, with input from Joanna Boag-Thomson, Chair of SCDI and a Partner in our media and technology team. The report, Making a Good Living, set out a series of policy recommendations for the UK and Scottish Governments, with the green recovery at its heart.
Partnering with Scottish Renewables
Shepherd and Wedderburn sponsored the Scottish Renewables Year of COP campaign, through which Scottish Renewables and its members highlighted their contribution to the fight against climate change. The campaign explored Scotland’s potential to help lead the green recovery and contribute to the transition to a low-carbon and net-zero world. John Morrison, a Partner in our corporate team, is Scottish Renewables’ Company Secretary.
Clare Foster, our Head of Clean Energy, is a RenewableUK Board member, and we are pleased to support the collaborative approach required to address the challenges, seize the opportunities and, above all, deliver the legal solutions that will unlock this country’s potential and help define the route map to net zero.
COP26 and the opportunity to lead
The effects of climate change (combined with the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic) mean we face challenges of a size and scale never encountered before – the green recovery is a critical part of moving forward towards a sustainable and resilient future, and the time to act is now. Shepherd and Wedderburn is fully committed to supporting a green recovery. Our strategic focus as a business is to help drive a green recovery and this strategy is being adopted across the firm in our interaction with clients and in playing our part in rebuilding our economy and making our communities more resilient. The green recovery is the anchor we hope will galvanise the whole country to lead the way. We recognise the need for collaboration and are keen to support our clients and contacts in their transition to a sustainable future.
Getting in touch
For further information, or to discuss your needs in relation to a green recovery-related matter, please get in touch with us via the enquiry form at the foot of this page.