Sarah Barker leads the climate and sustainability risk governance team at MinterEllison and is a director of one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, the Victorian state government’s $30 billion Emergency Services & State Super. She has more than two decades’ experience as a corporate lawyer, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change liability risks.
Sarah’s leadership in the field of climate change-related risk and liability is internationally recognised, and has been called upon by governments and institutions from the Bank of England to the OECD and United Nations PRI. In 2017, she was as the legal risk partner in a global consortium on Financial System Risks Arising from the Energy Transition, which involved advising the European Commission on climate-related litigation risks exposures for both government and private-sector entities.
She sits on the Technical Working Group of the London-based Climate Disclosure Standards Board, teaches as part of the Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (convened by EY), and is an academic visitor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. In 2018 she was appointed by Standards Australia as the Australian representative on the international Expert Committee of ISO14097, the International Standards Organisation’s draft Standard for Investment, Finance and Climate Change. In 2019, she was appointed to the Steering Committee of the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative, the only lawyer amongst a committee comprising senior executives from the Australian banking, finance and insurance sector.
Sarah was the instructing solicitor on a brief to Mr Noel Hutley SC that is widely cited as the authoritative exposition on directors’ duties with regard to climate change risk in Australia (including by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Securities & Investments Commission and the Reserve Bank of Australia).
She brings an overtly practical, governance-focused perspective to her advice from her own experience as a director on the board of government- and private-sector boards. In addition to her role as a non-executive director of Emergency Services & State Super, she sits on the board of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia, and has been actively involved as an examiner, lecturer and course materials author for the Australian Institute of Company Directors for more than a decade, and regularly facilitates the Institute’s public sector workshops.
Sarah works extensively across the policy, investment, academic and scientific communities – including with CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. She is known for her ability to communicate complex legal and economic concepts in a pragmatic way, to both lawyers and non-lawyers.
Sarah provides climate change liability risk management and disclosure advisor to state, federal and local government entities, and a range of Australian corporations in the banking, insurance, asset management, superannuation and infrastructure development sectors. Private and financial services sector clients include Ansell Ltd, Anglo American, ANZ, Australia Post, AMP Capital, Cbus, Cbus Property, ING, Lendlease, NAB, QIC, QTC and South32. In the public sector, Sarah works extensively with Federal, State and local government on climate-related risks and liability exposures (including the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Office, Victorian, Tasmanian, Queensland and South Australian state government departments variously across Premier & Cabinet, environment, water, energy, housing, defence, emergency services, home affairs, public works and infrastructure portfolios, and local government agencies across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.