From crucible to connection: The evolution and future of sustainability reporting and sustainable investing

Robert G. Eccles
Erasmus School of Law, photos by Michelle Muus

On 4 November 2022, the second edition of the Piet Sanders Lecture series took place, with the keynote by Robert G. Eccles, leading authority on corporate purpose and sustainability and Visiting Professor of Management Practice at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. During his lecture, “Will ESG Investing Survive Its Crucible?” Eccles argues for bridging the ideological gap to ensure a successful future of sustainability reporting and sustainable investing. In addition, he offers perspective on the future of sustainability reporting standards, drawing lessons from financial reporting. 

The annual Piet Sanders lecture aims to highlight respected academics and their intellectual contribution in the field of law. Eccles dedicates himself to major societal issues that are essential for lawyers, have a significant impact on the legal discipline and show that disciplines need to work together to solve grand societal issues. 

Positive societal impact

During her welcome speech, Harriët Schelhaas, dean of Erasmus School of Law, stressed the essence of the Piet Sanders Lecture Series: creating positive social impact and connecting theory and practice. This was also an important mission of our founding father Piet Sanders and is at the core of our faculty’s academic strategy. The objectives of societal impact and the link between theory and practice are also evident in Eccles’ work. 

From crucible to connection

Eccles began his lecture by answering the main question: “Will ESG Investing Survive its Crucible?” He argued that ESG investing is expected to survive the increasingly heated debate about the subject, but only if discussions about the topic will change through adapted language and collaboration between groups of people with different ideologies. 

The lecture consisted of four stories: The sustainable reporting story; The Purpose sustainability, ESG and impact story; The ideology and language story, and The bridging the divide story. Eccles started by reviewing the history of sustainability reporting as it has moved from being voluntary to becoming mandated by governments. He then explained the difference between the interrelated concepts of purpose, sustainability, ESG, and impact since people are often confused about them. This led to his observations on the different ideological perspectives that are critical of ESG. Eccles concluded the lecture by sharing his vision of the future, in which he stressed that bridging the gap between different ideologies is necessary to have a real positive impact on the sustainable future within ESG investing. 

The Board of Erasmus School of Law would like to thank the department of Law & Business for organising the Piet Sanders Lecture 2022 and is looking forward to next year.

More information

You can watch the full lecture here
More information on the Piet Sanders lecture can be found here.

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On 4 November 2021, the first keynote speech of the Piet Sanders Lecture Series was given by Katharina Pistor.
Foto van Katharina Pistor

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