MinterEllison Partner Sarah Barker Appointed to Chair World Economic Forum Climate Governance Body

July, 2023 - Australia

Climate and sustainability risk governance needs to be elevated further on boards.

MinterEllison Partner and Head of Climate Change and Sustainability, Sarah Barker, has been appointed joint Chair of a World Economic Forum key climate governance body, the Climate Governance Community of Experts (CGCoE). Her co-chair is Associate Prof Dr Simon Learmount from University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

Barker’s appointment reflects the global pre-eminence of her expertise in climate change governance and liability risk. Her long-standing focus on the role of board directors in ensuring that organisations are managing climate risk, aligns with the goals of CGCoE.

“The work of the CGCoE involves understanding what is required to empower and support directors with forward-looking insights into the most impactful governance frameworks, enabling them to proactively accelerate climate action,” said Barker.

“We strive to guide boards to a new level of comprehension regarding the far-reaching implications of climate change and equip them with the necessary knowledge and strategies to navigate the future with confidence and readiness,” she added.

Barker believes boards need further support to integrate climate and sustainability risks into corporate strategy, risk oversight and financial disclosures in line with stakeholder expectations.

"We have squarely moved from the 'what?' and 'why?' to the 'so what?' and 'how?' on climate change and sustainability. 'Net zero' emissions reduction targets have swiftly evolved from a 'nice to have' to 'ticket to play'. Boards are grappling with how to govern for an issue that is radically uncertain, and highly dynamic – and for which historical experience provides little insight."

"Boards are crying out for practical support to help navigate the escalating pressures from regulators, investors and stakeholders” Barker added.

Barker is also a founding member of the Steering Committee of the Australian Chapter of World Economic Forum’s Climate Governance Initiative, hosted in Australia by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The CGCoE will be formally launched by the World Economic Forum at London Climate Action Week, on 3 July.

The launch comes less than a week after the publication of the International Sustainability Standards Board's sustainability-related financial reporting standards S1 and S2. Those Standards, which are now subject of a second Treasury Consultation, have been referred to by ASIC Chair Joe Longo as part of the 'biggest changes to financial reporting and disclosure standards in a generation.'

About Sarah Barker
Sarah Barker leads MinterEllison's international Climate Change and Sustainability practice. She helps corporations, institutional investors and government agencies manage dynamic environmental, social and governance risks through a commercial lens. Barker has particular expertise in the climate change related exposures under corporate and securities (rather than 'environmental') laws - including directors' fiduciary duties and financial reporting/disclosure obligations.

Barker applies a cross-disciplinary approach to her work, harnessing experience in areas from atmospheric science to finance and investment. Her experience has been gained at the forefront of international developments with institutions from the Bank of England, United Nations and the European Union.

Barker is Australia’s representative on the cross-jurisdictional Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative, and she sits as an academic visitor at Oxford University’s Smith School. Barker also teaches sustainability in corporate governance for Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Barker’s perspective on the relationship between boards and climate action is practical. She is an experienced professional director, having recently completed two terms on the board of one of Australia's largest superannuation funds.