The good governance and environmental goals of global businesses are unachievable without a central role for general counsel, research conducted by magic circle firm Linklaters has concluded.

Launched last week at the UN Global Compact 15th anniversary celebration in New York, the Guide for General Counsel on Corporate Sustainability drew on in-depth interviews with counsel from companies including Boeing, Novartis and Unilever.

Its principal author, Linklaters partner Tom Shropshire, said the research showed a clear ‘convergence’ between the ‘evolving role of general counsel and corporate sustainability’.

For corporate counsel, the guide concludes, ‘maintaining a narrowly construed focus will become harder, and potentially of less relative value’. The legal role’s future relevance is instead firmly linked to involvement in the sustainability agenda.

Also launched at the UN event was Business for the Rule of Law, edited by Baker & McKenzie Toronto managing partner Kevin Coon (pictured).

Coon noted that ‘access to laws including those that protect fundamental human rights’ are ‘imperative to protecting and supporting the goals of global business’.

More than 8,000 companies are signatories to the Global Compact’s 10 principles, which cover human rights, the environment, labour and anti-corruption. The Law Society is opening a consultation in July to shape its guidance for law firms on meeting business and human rights goals.