Jun 29, 2021

Vicente Sederberg Launches ESG Practice, Aims to Help Marijuana and Hemp Industries Lead on Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Diversity

DENVER — Vicente Sederberg LLP (VS), a leading national cannabis law firm, announced Tuesday it has formed an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practice aimed at helping the burgeoning marijuana and hemp industries become leaders in sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

Practice leaders will host a free webinar on “Impact and ESG in the Cannabis Industry” on July 7 at 11 a.m. MT. Register now and find more details at https://bit.ly/vs-esg-webinar

Capturing ESG metrics is emerging as a business priority across all sectors, as investors, employees, government officials, and consumers increasingly focus on how companies manage, measure, and report their social and environmental impacts. Countries across Europe already require reporting of non-financial ESG metrics in their disclosures of material risks to investors, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appears poised to adopt similar regulatory requirements for U.S. companies.

“Social and environmental concerns often get pushed to the backburner, especially in a nascent and rapidly growing industry where many companies are still struggling to get a foothold,” said Marc Ross, counsel and head of impact and ESG at VS. “Because the cannabis industry is still in development and under the microscope of a wide range of stakeholders, businesses are under a lot of pressure to do better. By prioritizing ESG issues from the outset, the cannabis industry can get out in front on them.

“It is only a matter of time before all U.S. companies will need to begin disclosing their ESG impacts,” he said. “While other sectors get up to speed, the cannabis industry will already be positioned to lead the way.”

The VS Impact and ESG practice group offers cannabis businesses a wide variety of services to help them meet the rapidly increasing demand for responsible business practices and metrics, including:

  • General CSR and DEI operations consulting and ESG screening to identify and address gaps, risks, and opportunities

  • Sustainability consulting and environmental compliance

  • DEI policies and integration across supply chain, vendor, recruitment, and employment practices

  • Preparation of community engagement plans, Positive Impact Plans, and Social Impact Plans (SIP)

  • Development of strategic philanthropy plans, establishment of corporate nonprofit organizations and foundations, and establishment and certification of benefit corporations

  • Employee engagement surveying and planning

“Investors seeking opportunities in the cannabis industry are increasingly asking about companies’ ESG initiatives, programs, and progress,” said Kim Napoli, VS counsel and director of DEI. “Potential employees and customers, many of whom are millennials, also want to work with and support businesses that prioritize issues like sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

“It is critical that companies recognize and engage on the social, racial, and criminal justice issues that are historically and inextricably tied to cannabis,” she said. “This new legal industry must play an active role in repairing the damage that was caused by decades of prohibition policies and unfair enforcement, especially among communities of color. To ensure a bright future for cannabis, we must first address its dark past.”

Advocating for DEI and CSR in the Cannabis Industry 

VS has advocated for cannabis social equity programs across the U.S. and provided free or reduced-cost legal services to qualified applicants who need help accessing and navigating them. It has also performed pro bono federal and state policy work on social equity issues and provided free legal support for cannabis-related record-sealing clinics. Last year, the firm partnered with Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) to create the Vicente Sederberg Economic Empowerment Scholarship Fund, which supports legal training for attorneys working to promote social and racial equity in the cannabis industry.

“VS has roots in the drug policy reform movement, and that activist spirit and commitment to advancing the public interest have been pillars of our firm for over a decade,” said VS founding partner Christian Sederberg. “We are proud to use our depth of knowledge and real-world experience to help companies integrate meaningful ESG practices in strategic and authentic ways. Our mission is to position not only cannabis businesses, but also their surrounding communities, for healthy, sustainable, and impactful growth.”

About the Impact and ESG Practice Leaders

The VS Impact and ESG practice is led by attorneys with deep experience in CSR, sustainability, and DEI, both within and outside the cannabis space.

  • Marc Ross, counsel and head of Impact and ESG at VS, previously served as director of community outreach at multistate cannabis operator Harvest Health and Recreation Inc. Prior to entering the cannabis space, he founded and led Rock the Earth, a national environmental advocacy organization. He also served as in-house environmental counsel to Alcoa Inc. and as an environmental litigator for Reed Smith LLP and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. He is a member of the Denver Cannabis Sustainability Working Group and the national advisory board for Headcount’s Cannabis Voter Project. He also serves as CSR mentor to Canopy Boulder, a venture fund and business accelerator in the cannabis and hemp space.

  • Kim Napoli, counsel and director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at VS, is a member of the Massachusetts Cannabis Advisory Board and the Cannabis Trade Federation’s DEI Task Force. Prior to joining VS, she served as senior director of corporate social responsibility at multistate cannabis operator Parallel. She also served as a strategic advisor to the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, director of diversity programs at New England Treatment Access, LLC, and director of outreach for the campaign in support of Question 4, which legalized and regulated cannabis for adult use in Massachusetts.

  • Christian Sederberg, founding partner of VS, is board chair of the U.S. Cannabis Council and the Cannabis Trade Federation, and he is a member of the CTF DEI Task Force. He also sits on the boards of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness, and Colorado Leads, as well as the advisory board for Headcount’s Cannabis Voter Project. He is recognized as one of the nation’s top cannabis lawyers by Chambers USA and The Best Lawyers in America; one of the 100 most influential cannabis leaders by Green Entrepreneur and Cannabis Business Executive; and a “Top Social Equity Cannabis Power Player” by Blizzy magazine.

About Vicente Sederberg LLP

Vicente Sederberg LLP is a top-ranked national cannabis law firm with offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Texas. It has been at the leading edge of cannabis policy for more than a decade, helping public and private sector clients evaluate, shape, implement, and navigate marijuana and hemp laws and regulations across the U.S. and around the world. In 2021, Chambers USA named VS “Law Firm of the Year” in the field of cannabis law. For more information, visit https://vicentesederberg.com.