Plastic reduction at Macfarlanes

By Guest Blogger

Our guest blogger Robert Clarke from LSA member Macfarlanes describes how the firm is going about delivering on its commitment to reducing the use of plastic and other single-use, disposable materials.

At Macfarlanes, we are committed to reducing our use of plastic and other single-use, disposable materials. This is a core part our sustainability strategy for 2019, and is one of the areas in which we have been most successful in engaging staff and key stakeholders throughout the firm.

Support from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has been a key part of this initiative and we wanted to share our story with the LSA and inspire other members to tackle single use plastics in their firms.

Our plastic reduction initiative

Key elements of our plastic reduction initiative were as follows:

·           removing all plastic / disposable cutlery and replacing it with permanent metal cutlery;

·           almost entirely removing paper cups from the firm, replacing them with a stock of permanent tumblers and mugs;

·           dramatically reducing the number of individual under-desk bins used throughout the firm – at last count, over 270 people had “binned” their bins, saving up to approx. 75,000 bin bags per year;

·           encouraging solicitors to opt out of the Law Gazette, which is delivered wrapped in plastic and often makes its way straight to the bin (we wish the Gazette was digital by default!);

·           supporting this with internal marketing and comms; and

·           help from the MCS!

World Environment Day 2019: Lunch with the MCS

To mark World Environment Day on 5 June 2019, we hosted the MCS for a lunchtime discussion about marine plastic pollution. Anne Thwaites and Sanjay Mitra gave an engaging talk about the problem of marine plastic pollution, the incredible work of the MCS and things we can do as a firm and as individuals to reduce our plastic consumption. We also learnt what nurdles are!

The audience was really engaged there were some great questions from the floor covering plastic free and sustainable seafood choices, bamboo cotton buds, how best to engage sustainability laggards, and the importance of storytelling about plastic threats and plastic reduction successes.

MCS is a leading marine conservation charity in the UK. Since its beginnings in the 1970s MCS has achieved major successes in protecting marine wildlife, engaging tens of thousands of volunteers in the Beachwatch beach cleaning and litter survey programme, supporting better buying choices for sustainable seafood, and influencing Government and industry to tackle plastic pollution at home and in the workplace.

Staff engagement success

As with any sustainability initiative, staff engagement has been a key challenge in relation to our plastic reduction efforts. Communicating the reasons behind policy changes on things like cutlery and paper cups has been key to bring people onside and pre-empt criticisms, and for every sustainability-conscious member of staff, there are two or three waiting to be engaged.

The MCS lunch really helped with that and has contributed to a wonderful sense of momentum in the firm that we are keen to build on over coming weeks and months.

We had a wonderful response from attendees and, following the talk, many people across the firm took it upon themselves to cajole and encourage their departments to give up their desk bins with great success – contributing to the fantastic numbers listed above. The great thing about this is that the energy came from individuals throughout the firm, not just from our Environmental Committee. We think this is a great example of how a staff engagement event can lead to positive cultural change across the firm.

Like the sound of this?

If you would like to attempt something similar in your firm and would be interested in more detail about how we achieved this at Macfarlanes, please get in touch with Rob Clarke.

The MCS would also welcome contact from all and any LSA firms interested in tackling plastic use in their firms and contributing to the fight against marine plastic pollution. Please contact Anne Thwaites.

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