Tim Clare, head of due diligence at ENVIRON, speaks exclusively to Who's Who Legal about his role, recent developments in the environmental field and some of his experiences of working with solicitors in this discipline.
"The lawyers who have impressed me the most have also been those who are really proactive, and not shy about speaking up and suggesting an innovative or unorthodox course of action if they think it’s in their client’s best interests."
ENVIRON was established in 1982 in Washington, DC, as a privately held consulting firm that provided a wide range of services to clients concerned with the problems of human exposure to potentially hazardous substances in the environment; in food ingredients and packaging; in drugs, medical devices and consumer products; and in the workplace. The company established itself as a forward-thinking consultancy and pioneered the application of human health and environmental risk assessment to a wide variety of issues facing business decision-makers. It applied a gradual expansion policy through acquisitions and the opening of offices in key locations around the world.
Today, ENVIRON works with clients internationally to help resolve their most demanding environmental and human health issues, combining resources across geographic boundaries and technical and scientific disciplines. In the UK, ENVIRON has been delivering highly technical and customer-specific solutions for over 20 years, assessing and managing the environmental, energy and health risks associated with clients’ activities and products to help them achieve greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency in their businesses.
Tim Clare is UK head of due diligence at ENVIRON and brings 17 years’ experience in environmental consultancy and risk management to the position. Having worked as an auditor and director of numerous multi-jurisdictional environment, health and safety due diligence projects, he is well placed to advise clients around the world on initiatives across a range of industrial sectors. Who’s Who Legal spoke with Tim about his role at ENVIRON, recent developments in the environmental field and some of his experiences of working with solicitors in the discipline.
WWL: Tell us about your role as head of due diligence at ENVIRON UK.
I joined ENVIRON at the start of 2013, from WSP where I had led the due diligence business for almost 10 years. The aim of my ENVIRON due diligence role is twofold. Firstly, to provide coordination and ensure consistency in a practice that as well as delivering work derived from our global network, has around 15 domestic partner-level individuals winning and delivering M&A and real estate due diligence projects. Secondly, my role is to ensure we have in place a meaningful practice development strategy with regard to legal and financial (private equity, corporate finance and banking) clients and that the strategy is implemented.
I also have a role in promoting our expert services offering. That’s ensuring clients know about the full range of experts we have and our ability to help with virtually any environmental, energy or health and safety challenge that may arise – from chemicals regulation to international finance. My involvement in this area has evolved over the years and derives from having long acted as the primary point of contact for many law firms. Then I started to develop my own track record having assisted a law firm with a major piece of litigation in West Africa.
WWL: Describe a typical day.
It’s the old cliché but I don’t really have a typical day as they are driven by clients and where their deals are at that stage. The one thing that is certain is that whatever my to-do list looked like at 8am, I can be pretty sure I will also action four or five other things that will come up during the day itself.
What is typical is that I’m an early starter, usually working by 7.30am or 8am. I am generally in London now, as I am primarily focused on London clients and I have ceased routinely auditing sites. I still love auditing, but a compliance audit takes three to four days to write up properly and I need the time to focus on my wider role.
So a day for me will be a combination of project work (usually working with the delivery teams to guide what we do, reviewing our reports, participating in calls and liaising directly with our clients), responding to enquiries and writing proposals, and practice development work. The practice development work will vary from the strategic elements through to meeting with our existing clients and the harder task of picking up the phone to targeted prospective clients. Until very recently, I was also a Trustee of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA) and would usually spend some time each day on that.
WWL: Given ENVIRON’s international presence, in which jurisdictions is the consulting firm particularly active in terms of helping company clients to assess and mitigate environment risks?
We are a classic global business that has opened offices across the world to meet the needs of our globally operating clients. We are busy everywhere, but without a doubt Africa, Central Asia and the Far East are particularly hot at the moment. We are very proud to be the first consultancy to open an office in Myanmar.
WWL: How do you expect corporate attitudes to climate change and sustainability to develop over the next five to 10 years, and what are ENVIRON’s plans for the future in light of this?
I expect corporates to get more serious, and more proactively engaged, but by how much will vary from company to company and will be driven by a number of factors. The level of legislative burden will be key, and the Britain-in-the-EU debate and the future of the US presidency post-Obama will have an impact. Public attitudes and purchasing power will also play its part, as will some resource issues. Those firms already seeing climate change impact their sourcing of raw materials, their operations or the attractiveness of their products are well ahead on preparations.
Personally, I’m spending a significant amount of time on how private equity firms are responding to the need to have environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and programmes. Most are getting their policies in place, but there are great differences in how different firms incorporate the relevant considerations in to their due diligence of new target companies and what improvements they seek on ownership. My focus on ESG issues mirrors ENVIRON’s response as a whole: we will monitor our clients’ needs and ensure we have the resources and expertise in place to support them.
WWL: Tell us about any recent projects or initiatives your team has been working on, and which law firms did you work with?
On transactions so far this year my team has probably worked with Latham & Watkins, Macfarlanes and Jones Day the most, albeit we have interacted with probably 10 other practices on different deals. The nature of our client list is such that we are often as likely to be speaking with a lawyer in New York as we are with one in London.
I have also spoken with a range of other firms recently sourcing them support on wider issues such as health and safety advice, product safety/REACH work and the Carbon Reduction Commitment. Elsewhere in the practice I think the work our team did on the first enforcement undertaking accepted by the Environment Agency for a water pollution offence was particularly interesting. Working with Simon Colvin, now of Weightmans, the enforcement undertaking was offered by a global infrastructure organisation after a process failed and styrene was released into a tributary of the East Looe River in Cornwall, killing a number of fish and causing some ecological damage.
ENVIRON was appointed to value the environmental damage and consider suitable reparation. Our approach to valuation mirrored those advocated for the European Environmental Liability Directive. In consultation with local interest groups, ENVIRON identified and the EA accepted, out of a range of options, a suitable compensation project that would improve the overall long-term quality of the watercourse.
WWL: What makes a good lawyer in this field?
I think the answer to that question will vary depending on which part of the broad church of environmental law you are looking at. Speaking as someone who primarily deals with transactions, I think a good lawyer has to have a really broad knowledge of the legislation, as the issues will vary with every target company; understand the intricacies that will actually trigger a liability; and be comfortable [with the fact] that many of the issues and the best solutions are not solely legal. The lawyers who have impressed me the most have also been those who are really proactive, and not shy about speaking up and suggesting an innovative or unorthodox course of action if they think it’s in their client’s best interests.
WWL: What is the greatest challenge – legal, practical or political – facing the environment field in the UK?
The economy. The growth agenda encourages the calls for deregulation and environment is an easy target. Environmental protection can also be expensive and there are louder calls for the money at the moment.
WWL: In your role, what are the most common issues encountered by clients looking to operate more efficiently?
Most of our clients can see the opportunities to seek environmental improvements that will boost efficiency and save money in the long run, but routinely find that other issues are higher up the agenda. However, lack of management time and the competition with other corporate needs for investment monies is certainly an issue. This is a shame as many of the savings are easy to achieve and the payback periods shorter than expected.
WWL: What are your relationships with other members of the executive leadership at ENVIRON?
Despite the wide range of specialisms it’s a pretty flat and cohesive team. I participate in the UK principal meetings, where the partnership’s leaders gather regularly to review and direct the business. As UK due diligence lead, I am also in routine contact with, and report to, our two global practice leaders who are based in the US and Germany. The company as a whole is focusing harder on working across national boundaries and bringing together technical teams from different areas, so I regularly work with other senior specialists internationally as well.