Insegnamento a.a. 2022-2023

20821 - ESG LAW

Department of Law

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 26
TS (6 credits - I sem. - OB  |  IUS/10)
Course Director:

Classes: 26 (I sem.)

Lezioni della classe erogate in presenza

Mission & Content Summary


Investors, employees, consumers, and NGOs are increasingly calling on corporations to address the current social and environmental challenges: thus, the role that companies ought to serve in society is being vigorously debated by regulators, investors, corporate executives, employees, academics, and the general public. Against this framework, the course deals with current International and European legal developments in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, focusing in particular on the multiple ways in which government and business engage with the impact of global production and consumption on different environmental media (including climate change, resources depletion, biodiversity loss). Students are introduced to the key challenges and opportunities faced by policy makers, governments, companies and citizens in tackling environmental and social problems and the complex issue of sustainable development.


  • The redefinition of the role of government and business to address social and environmental challenges: 'positive obligations' of corporations towards the protection of the environment
  • The redefinition of the corporate purpose and the future of capitalism
  • From this perspective, the following main topics will be addressed:
  • The characteristics of environmental law
  • Techniques for environmental management: command and control, market tools, voluntary tools and the role of self-regulation
  • Principles of European Environmental Law (i.e. sustainable development, the precautionary principle, the prevention principle; the source principle; the polluter pays principle)
  • Regulation of specific sectors (ex. climate change, nature protection, control of industrial emissions, technological risk regulation)
  • the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the Taxonomy Regulation and the EU Commission proposal for a directive on corporate sustainability due diligence
  • Green antitrust law
  • Green IP Law
  • Environmental liability and climate litigation

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Understand the complex nature of ESG issues and the multiple ways in which law applies to and engages with them.
  • Understand the impact of "corporate purpose" on corporate governance and corporate liability
  • Gain a deeper legal understanding of EU environmental principles and the concept of sustainable development
  • Analyse the various regulatory strategies involved in dealing with environmental problems and the role of the key actors involved in implementing such strategies within the EU
  • Gain a solid understanding of EU legal frameworks that apply to key environmental problems, including climate change, protection of the environmental media (climate change, air pollution, technological risk regulation, nature protection and the control of industrial emissions.
  • Foster team work, critical and analytical analysis and problem solving (especially through case studies and class projects)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Critically assess the broader articulation of the role of companies and their capability to address harms to society or the environment
  • Be aware of relevant stakeholders, their preferences, and the path by which they can influence EU environmental law.
  • Locate, read, and analyze EU and domestic environmental law and case law
  • Foster team work, critical and analytical analysis as well as problem solving (through case studies and class projects).

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Group assignments


Teaching method is based on active learning and includes lectures and several case studies (as an aid to understanding). Students are expected to ensure regular class attendance (at least 75%) and to actively participate in class discussions and teamwork. Slides and other materials are made available to students beforehand in order to facilitate note taking.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


  • Attending students sit a written open book exam consisting of one question (an hypothetical scenario the solution to which requires familiarity with, and mastery of, the course materials) to be answered in 75 minutes. This counts as 80% of the marks. Students can sit this kind of exam only in the first two exam dates.
  • Students must also work in-group (max. 6 students per group) to prepare a presentation on a specific topic directly relevant to ESG law as it applies in the European Union.  The group assignment evaluation counts 20% of the marks.
  • The final exam aims to assess the solid understanding of the EU legal framework that applies to key ESG problems.


Final written exam consisting of 3 open questions and 8 multiple choice questions to be answered in 60 minutes.
This counts as 100% of the mark.


The final exam aims to assess the solid understanding of the complex nature of current social and environmental challenges, the multiple ways in which government and business engages with them, as well as to critically assess the broader articulation of the role of companies and their capability to address harms to society or the environment.

Teaching materials


J. van Zeben, A. Rowell, A guide to EU environmental law, 2020, University of California Press, ISBN-10 0520295226.

Other materials and selected readings will be indicated at the beginning of the course and will be available online.

Notes will be provided with slides.

Last change 13/06/2022 17:59