New HK boutique focuses on sustainable finance

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Ben McQuhae, a former Jones Day partner, has launched a boutique law firm in Hong Kong. Ben McQuhae & Co will focus on supporting clients to build sustainable finance, and pledges to be a net-zero carbon law firm.

“We have seen national net zero carbon commitments in mainland China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere around the world,” McQuhae told Asia Business Law Journal.

“Since the Paris agreement, there’s been a huge amount of work that’s happening, much of which is behind the scenes … all over the world to promote sustainable finance. And sustainable finance is really a structure through which we’re going to pay for tackling climate risk.”

As trillions of dollars are required globally to tackle climate risks, and the public sector can only afford a small percentage of the overall cost, McQuhae said the only way to tackle global warming is through private sector finance, and he is keen to accelerate green investment.

“The future of the energy industry, in my view, has to be renewable energy,” he said. “It’s a transition that’s already happening, and I believe a transition from which there is no going back.

“Innovation and tech are very powerful and hugely important enablers. In my mind, they go together. But the reason for a sustainability focused law firm is simply that we want to choose the work that we do. We want to ensure that the work that we do as lawyers, as a law firm, has a positive impact.”

For this purpose, the firm has developed a methodology called SDG tracker, which enables it to score its work against UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). As the firm is not able to measure the actual impact and score its clients accurately, the tracker scores the firm based on the UN SDG goals relative to the firm’s positive impact.

Prior to establishing the new firm, McQuhae co-founded GPS McQuhae in 2018, which will now be known as Georgiou Payne Stewien after his departure. McQuhae is also the co-founder and a board member of the Hong Kong Green Finance Association, as well as the Hong Kong representative and steering committee member of the UN’s Financial Centres for Sustainability.