Jody Freeman, a professor at Harvard Law School, was elected to the Board of Directors of ConocoPhillips last Tuesday. She will serve on the Public Policy Committee for the third largest integrated energy company in the United States.
Since joining the Harvard faculty in 2005, Freeman has taught administrative law and environmental law and was the founding director of the Harvard Environmental Law and Policy Program. In 2009, she took a year off to serve as Counselor on Energy and Climate Change in the Obama White House, working primarily on energy and climate change policy and playing a role in the implementation of the first-ever greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles.
Fellow environmental law scholar Rob Verchick, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans and a HLS graduate in the class of 1989, discussed Freeman’s resume in talking about her recent appointment.
“I wasn’t surprised because she is one of the leaders in the field of thinking about the regulation of fuels and petroleum, and her work in the Obama administration I think gave her a lot of credibility in that area,” Verchick said.
The choice of Freeman comes months after complaints were raised at ConocoPhillips’ annual shareholder meeting in May that the company’s board had nine males but no women.
“Our company is strongly committed to the highest standards for health, safety and environmental stewardship,” ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance said in a statement. “Jody’s presence on the board will add a unique and valuable perspective, and help to advance our commitment to operational excellence around the world.”
Wendy B. Jacobs, the director of Harvard’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, expects that Freeman will add a new perspective to the Board of Directors in addition to the diversity that she brings.
“Boards need [new ideas], and this board, I’m happy to say, is open to having a broader range of perspectives,” Jacobs said.
Though her background differs from most other members of the ConocoPhillips board, Verchik said that he does not expect her views to clash with the business.
“In the area of environmental law, there are two different kinds of scholars, and some of them lean more towards advocating an environmentalist position…. I would not put Jody in that category,” Verchick said. “I’d put her in a category that business leaders see as more sympathetic.”
Verchick also said that Freeman’s selection is ahead of the normal timeline of environmental scholars.
“It is an extraordinary rise because normally you find academics in the field of environmental law on the boards of non-profits or educational public institutes,” Verchick said. “I think to see her [at] a major for-profit industry like that in the private sector is uncommon.”
Third-year law student and Managing Editor of the Harvard Environmental Law Review Brendan Selby, who learned administrative and environmental law from Freeman, said he was not worried that her new position would affect her teaching.
“I think she is very impartial as a teacher,” Selby said. “She always teaches both sides of an issue—she was never just coming at things from the environmental sides and ignoring the fairness aspect. I don’t think it will affect her ability to continue doing that.”
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.