Convincing the Business: Making the Case for Carbon Neutrality
Rosie Helson – Natural Capital Partners.[This guest blog is reproduced in full with permission from Natural Capital Partners. Read the article on their website here]
For some companies, the benefits of achieving net zero emissions are quickly understood, while other internal leaders may require a little more convincing. In this guest blog Natural Capital Partners illustrate the benefits via the experiences of three of their clients who share their journey to carbon neutrality and describe how they made sure it delivered value for the business.
While the calls for carbon neutrality from experts such as former United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres have been widely reported, corporates still require a compelling business reason to make the case for leadership on climate action.
For the world’s largest law firm, Dentons, the most significant reason to become a certified CarbonNeutral® company in the UK and Middle East was to be regarded as an innovative climate leader. Dentons is a member of the Legal Sustainability Alliance, and while other members had set carbon neutral targets, Dentons wanted to do something a bit different. By selecting carbon finance projects that go beyond emissions reductions to support local communities and biodiversity in Uganda, the programme was aligned with one of the emerging markets the firm operates in.
A benchmarking exercise which showed what some of Dentons’ major clients and competitors were doing was key: “I actually showed him Natural Capital Partners’ client example whereby Microsoft purchased carbon from impactful projects in Africa, India and elsewhere,” said Dentons’ Deputy Head of Facilities, Mike Forshaw, helping him convince the UK and Middle East CEO of the value of carbon neutrality in differentiating from other legal firms.
Dentons was already measuring and reducing emissions, but the carbon neutral goal brought these actions together into a coherent, clear strategy. Mike engaged Dentons’ Global Environmental Committee by setting out a three to five year plan to demonstrate the long-term commitment to the programme. The restored water infrastructure project in Uganda is one that delivers benefits in several areas beyond reducing emissions and meeting the carbon neutral goal: by providing communities with access to clean water, the project impacts multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including good health and well-being and gender equality.
“We wanted to go beyond the tick-box exercise by taking numerous environmental actions internally and ensuring our offsets have a positive impact in the communities they’re purchased from. It’s the right thing to do, it’s cost-effective, and that’s why we’ve committed to a three-year carbon neutral programme and expect that to continue,” Mike said.
The programme is now expanding to global units with senior support.
For CHEP, a business which has an inherently low-emission business model that rents pallets and reusable plastic containers to consumer goods and retail companies around the world, its product-as-a-service model, combined with its internal sustainability programme and customer collaboration, significantly reduces the carbon emissions of the business. So, it was a small step for the company to enable its customers to further decarbonise their supply chains with a CarbonNeutral pallet offering.
How a company manages the environmental and climate impacts of its energy use – principally carbon emissions – is an increasingly important differentiator for businesses such as CHEP, whose customers were demanding their suppliers take climate action seriously in order to meet their own sustainability commitments. A CarbonNeutral® product offering is one of the many actions CHEP is taking to demonstrate that.
Iñigo Canalejo Lasarte, Sustainability Director, Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East, commented: “Providing a carbon neutral product to our customers makes CHEP standout in the market; it allows our customers to go beyond the environmental benefits of our share-and-reuse business model, further reducing their environmental footprint and helping to make the world´s supply chains more sustainable.”
The programme has obviously resonated throughout the business: starting in 2012, it has expanded from three to 24 countries. It reached the U.S. after that team saw how successful the CarbonNeutral half-pallets had been in Europe: “U.S. industry recognizes the value of this pioneering platform; CHEP’s CarbonNeutral half-pallet won Industrial Pack’s Environmental Initiative of the Year Award 2018. It’s helping our customers reach both sustainability and business goals,” said Suzanne Lindsay-Walker, CHEP’s Director of Sustainability, North America.
For the programme to be successful, it was essential to ensure Account Directors and Sales teams were on-board. The engagement programme included details of the carbon finance projects CHEP purchases from, which are selected to resonate with customers’ interests: the Acre Amazonian Rainforest Conservation project which impacts 15 of the 17 SDGs, and the Mississippi Valley Reforestation project, which resonates with CHEP’s U.S. customers.
“Not many companies in our industry are providing carbon neutral products,” says Iñigo. It’s a key competitive differentiator but credibility is essential. Iñigo points out that carbon neutrality should not “be the starting point, but rather the natural continuation of a well thought-through sustainability strategy and carefully developed action plan.” Following a framework like the CarbonNeutral Protocol will ensure that the emissions of the business have been reduced to net zero in way that is consistent with best practice.
For water and coffee services company Eden Springs, a survey to investors, customers and employees provided evidence that the business’ key stakeholders were demanding climate action. This led the company to expand its CarbonNeutral® company programme, which already covered the UK, Nordics and Swiss markets, to include product usage for one year, the products themselves, the company, and electricity across Europe.
On a personal level, Eden Springs’ President, Antonio Alarcon, wants the company to be a leader in climate action, and not just in its industry sector. “We are committed to carbon neutrality because we are firmly convinced that it is the right thing to do. It is going to be good for us, good for our employees and it is also going to be good for our clients,” stated Antonio. That’s why carbon neutral has become a core pillar of the Eden Springs brand, further differentiating the company.
Antonio convinced Eden’s regional Managing Directors across Europe that carbon neutrality represents a clear cross-cultural message that brings the markets together with one shared vision. They grew the programme by starting in the Eden Springs’ European markets that had more customers demonstrating commitments to environmental action, namely the UK, Nordics and Switzerland. It has become clear that carbon neutrality generates value for Eden Springs’ customers, in turn creating enterprise value. These first-mover markets set the bar for carbon neutrality and demonstrated the programme’s success. As the trend for climate action grew among customers across Europe, Eden expanded its carbon neutral commitment.
While reducing emissions delivers many shared benefits, reducing them to net zero represents a next-level goal and clear leadership statement, enhancing the brand of the business. The next steps for Eden Springs are to communicate the newly expanded programme to clients, detailing the environmental benefits of carbon neutrality, making them feel proud, and hopefully inspiring them to create similar initiatives in their own companies.
With increasing customer demand to decarbonise the supply base, and a need to differentiate from competitors, demonstrating climate leadership through carbon neutrality is proving a highly successful strategy for companies throughout the world. Starting in selected business locations or product areas, and building on that success to expand the programme, can showcase the enterprise value a net zero emissions programme will deliver.
Oceans, microplastic and a whole new way of thinking
By LSA Guest Blogger Beatrice Carpenter
The LSA Summer Event 2018 was not only topical it was inspirational, generously hosted by Taylor Wessing at their New Square office with its beautiful green roof terrace which provided a delightful and fitting venue for the conversational hot topic – plastic in the oceans. Gazing out over the roof tops of the city of London on a balmy summer evening one could be forgiven for thinking ocean pollution is a distant problem. The LSA guest speaker brought it right into the room for us all.
Emily Penn, a self-described,“skipper, ocean advocate and artist” and dedicated environmentalist, has been involved on a personal mission to clean our oceans and rid them of plastic waste for around 10 years. She became an oceanographer by accident, having hitched a ride on ‘Earthrace’ the world breaking bio fueled boat on the way to Australia and after that she was hooked.
Emily shared her experience of that first voyage, of her first clean up project on the islands of Tonga and of founding her now award winning team of all female crew on board eXXpedition. eXXpedition carry out research and testing to uncover the unseen damage single use plastic and the lack of its sustainable disposal is having on the world around us, particularly focused on the health impacts its degradation may have on women.
Emily’s speech shed a light on micro-plastics, the tiny fragments that float along the surface of the ocean, thousands of miles from any shore and shared her shocking revelation that when she had her own blood tested for toxins she discovered it contained 29 from a list of 35 banned substances. While no one can prove where they came from exposure to chemical treatments or toxins released from plastic as it breaks down may well be the cause.
Emily’s energy and passion captivated the room as she shared plans for her next adventure – the voyage to the North Pacific with her team due to start in a couple of weeks. You can follow her progress here and listen to her sharing her stories with Planet Pod on their podcast special.
It is easy to feel that our efforts are somewhat small when we see the grand scale of the damage, but a poignant message from the evening was that they are not. Micro-actions, just like the tiny fragments of floating plastic in our waters, can create significant changes. For a lot of firms only recently embarking on their journey to be more sustainable the focus should be on the small steps. Speaking of steps, Emily, a Parley for Oceans ambassador, shared the success of Adidas Parley trainer made entirely from recylced yarns and plastic recovered from the sea as an example of what corporate commitment can do to make change happen.
Emily’s journey to sea began when she discovered the notion of “Slow travel” across our planet. For her it involved taking a Camel as part of her route to China but this philosophy can also be applied to the movement towards a more sustainable lifestyle. It is when we pause and think of the consequences of our actions, that they are changed.
However, slow thought doesn’t mean slow progress. Although it begins with the little things, it requires making large-scale changes if we wish to give our earth time to heal from the damage we have put it through.
As Emily herself so neatly put it; “Sometimes when you’re on the ocean, the wind doesn’t always blow your way”. This serves somewhat as a metaphor for the uphill battle in dealing with our ocean pollution. It is clear to enable our waters to recover it will involve a process of reversing our mentality to plastic and encouraging people to take action.
The Role of Digital in Sustainability
The benefits of organisations being environmentally-minded and pro-social are increasingly well understood and publicised: job satisfaction improves, retention rate increases, consumers favour ethical brands, company value increases – and the accumulated social and environmental impact of organisations working together to do good has an immeasurably large impact on society.
At Reason Digital, with these many benefits in mind, we have made it our mission to build websites, apps and other digital services for charities and pro-social organisations including lawfirms. Given the near-total penetration of internet usage in the UK population and the centrality
of digital services to businesses, the need for flexible, integrated, online tools to help organisations maximise their impact has never been greater.
One area that many companies struggle with in relation to their environmental impact is minimising the waste that they produce: whilst approximately 70% of office waste is recyclable,only 7.5% reaches a recycling facility. As a response to this, we created an app – Gone for Good – aimed at helping people to recycle and repurpose their furniture and clutter. By downloading theapp and taking a photo of the items in question, companies are able to donate their unwanted items to any of the available charities – it gets picked up by the charity, and doesn’t cost the user a penny! Since its launch in 2015, Gone for Good has facilitated the collection of nearly £1 million of goods for charity shops to benefit from.
In a similar vein, we found that many organisations were struggling with measuring and reporting their triple bottom line. Impact aims to address this by providing a single, centralised, online tool for logging social and environmental data. It takes information from your staff, capturing evidence along the way, transforms it from activity logs into actual social impact information, and shows your real-time progress towards your social impact goals.
Think Big – Be Bold!
“Think Big and Be Bold!” says Plan A Guru Mike Barry! At a recent LSA lunchtime discussion hosted by LSA executive firm Allen & Overy, Christina Blacklaws (VP & incoming President, The Law Society) joined Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business (Plan A) at Marks & Spencer, to discuss how and where the legal profession and retail can work together on sustainability.
Mike, who is the M&S Board Director responsible for the ‘Plan A’ campaign, encouraged the audience, of senior lawyers and CSR professionals, to think big. While he supports and applauds the LSA members in their annual carbon measurement and their efforts to bring down carbon emissions, he issued us with a challenge: “There is more that law firms can do to contribute to the wider sustainability issues that the whole of society faces”.
Mike made the point that “Paper and travel are important secondary impacts of the legal profession, both of which need to be addressed, BUT the true value to society of the profession is its huge knowledge to help us make the right decisions about issues like technology, privacy, land use an development, wellbeing and – of course – diversity.”
The M&S commitment to Plan A means that every single item sold in M&S stores worldwide has to have a ‘Plan A’ story to tell by 2020 – that means sustainability is being built into the supply chain at every stage and is to be regarded as “business as normal”, a baseline measure not an exception: no mean feat when M&S has 3 billion single items on sale each year to 32 million customers.
Sustainability is also at the heart of the incoming President’s agenda for the Law Society, underpinning and linking her other joint priorities of the Innovation, technology and diversity. The LSA offers a vital free resource to Law Society members, helping them respond to her call for them “to take a proactive approach to environmental sustainability”. The opportunities that technology provides to reduce our collective environmental impact are clear – for example, based on analysis done by Google, a typical firm or organisation that migrates to cloud-based CRM, email and related systems could reduce its energy use (and therefore carbon footprint) by 68-87%.
All law firms, whatever their size, are invited to join the LSA and make use of the wealth of free resources on offer – including a free annual carbon footprinting tool that helps firms measure manage and reduce carbon emissions. Since its inception in 2007 LSA member firms have been responsible for a 15% reduction in average total emissions per capita an approximate saving of £140 per employee. As the Vice President said “sustainable business is good business and makes sense”.
The LSA has over 140 active law firm members. It is free to join and open to all UK law firms, in house council, law schools and other legal teams. Take our survey on what sustainability matters and means to the profession here
How Green Is Your Finance?
Interest has been growing in how to structure financial systems to support sustainability. The term “green finance” is used to refer to financial instruments, services or activity which result in positive change for the environment and society over the long term.
The drive to green finance is being driven by investor demand; ambitious societal objectives (such as the Paris agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals); the rise of new financial instruments (such as green bonds); and improved understanding of risk through enhanced analytics and reporting.
Green finance is starting to move from a niche product to a mainstream activity, with financial centres around the world vying with each other to attract green money.
So far, so good. But how are the various financial centres doing?
The Global Green Finance Index (GGFI) is an exciting initiative from Long Finance in association with Finance Watch and the Mava Foundation. With the Global Green Finance Index we hope to shine a light on green finance activity by ranking the world’s financial centres on the quality and depth of their green finance offerings.
The index will be constructed using a number of existing indices in combination with a survey of senior industry figures from around the world. Full details of the methodology can be found here.
The intention behind the GGFI is to:
- Define green financing and green finance criteria;
- Enable financial centres to enhance the range and depth of their offerings;
- Showcase and share best practice in green financing; and
- Create a “race to the top” which will catalyse the growth of green finance, improve policy makers’ and other stakeholders’ understanding of what makes, a financial centre ‘green’ and shape the financial system to support, sustainability goals.
You can participate in the survey here. We would love to have as wide a range of views as is possible to improve the richness of the data available.
We aim to publish the initial Global Green Finance Index in Spring 2018 with further editions following at six month intervals to build a picture of how financial centres are responding to the challenge of making a difference to the sustainability of our economies.
Prof Micael Mainelli – Z/Yen Group Ltd
New Year Resolution?
Happy New Year to all our readers! This opening blog for 2018 may not be full of traditional good cheer, but it is an important and timely reminder that action is needed by us all NOW if we are to get the world we all want for future generations. These short extracts from the second “warning” to humanity issued in Nov 2017 (and supported by 15364 scientists from 184 countries across the world) might perhaps help to shape our New Year Resolutions for 2018:
“As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviours…..
Sustainability transitions come about in diverse ways, and all require civil-society pressure and evidence-based advocacy, political leadership, and a solid understanding of policy instruments…..
To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”
Read the full text of the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” here
We are stronger together – people and trees
The Tree Charter goes live!
On a chilly November evening 800 years to the day the Charter of the Forest was reborn as the Woodland Trust unveiled its new Charter for Trees Woods and People. Over 18 months in the making, based on work across hundreds of organisations and communities the ten point charter is a thing of beauty and inspiration. Written in oak gall ink (derived from “oak apples” or oak galls – the same ink that was used write the Magna Carta and original 1217 Charter of the Forest) it inspires both support and action.
The Charter encourages communities, individuals, businesses, landowners, planners and government to sustain landscapes for wildlife, to plant for the future to celebrate and protect trees and woods and plan greener spaces for all.
As we gathered in the dark, lead by lantern bearing children to watch the unveiling of the Charter Pole in Lincoln Castle grounds it was inspiring to see the new handwritten Charter nestling against pages from the original 1217 Charter of the Forest. While this may seem a poetic flight of fancy, the Charter has real significance for law firms and the LSA has scoped out a practical response to the ten calls within it. Our ten practical actions range from reducing paper consumption, ensuring sustainable supply chains, advocating for stronger protection of trees through to ensuring social justice around access to trees.
Why Circular Economy Products are Better than New
Dr Greg Lavery is the Managing Director of Rype Office
The Circular Economy has seen rapid technical advancements enabling remanufactured products to look and perform as new, while bringing a range of other desirable benefits.
Here are 5 reasons why circular economy/remanufactured products are better than those made from virgin resources:
1. Cost Savings
Raw material costs, processing costs (refining, shaping, coating, finishing) and the margins at every step in a virgin resource product’s supply chain, are expensive.
For remanufacturing, where a product is disassembled at the component level (rather than into separate materials) and broken/out-dated parts are replaced and then the item reassembled, the cost saving is around HALF of the list price of the same product from virgin resources.
This is illustrated in the exposé Office Furniture Costs, which compares the costs of virgin and remanufactured office furniture.
A second example is office photocopiers, which now see service with seven different clients, on average. Remanufacturing has enabled leading photocopier companies to reduce their price to customers without compromising their margins or the reliability of their machines
2. Lower Structural Failure Rates
Design flaws and flaws in materials are difficult to identify during manufacturing and inspection, but lead to expensive and dangerous structural failures early in the first life of products from virgin resources. Having these failures from micro-cracks, inclusions, and design flaws occur in the first life of a product means a much reduced risk of occurrence in subsequent lives.
For example, Caterpillar remanufactures engines for heavy equipment. The UK Department of Defence deploys these engines in war zones, where the DoD benefits from the proven durability and quality of Caterpillar’s remanufactured engines in life-and-death situations
Previous lives give stories and character to products. Would you like to sit every day at a desk from James Bond’s MI6 office?
Public Health Wales’ Cardiff office desks from the Bond movie Spectre – some of the 94% of 2,500 items of furniture refurbished or remanufactured for the fitout
Italian leather sofas once sat on by billionaires at a leading London private equity firm now form a luxurious meeting space in the offices of NAOS, a cosmetics company.
NAOS office breakout area
Elvis and Kresse creates luxury accessories from used fire hoses, with the fire hoses proudly showing their heritage; this is part of the appeal of the items.
Elvis and Kresse products made from end-of-life fire hoses
Sadly, many interior designers looking for heritage choose reproduction furniture made from virgin resources of inferior quality to the original versions, often artificially distressed using toxic chemicals. In an office, this sends a number of undesirable messages to staff and visitors which challenge the authenticity of the company’s brand. At the same time, original pieces are being sent to landfill.
Here is how Artek (the store selling products designed by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto) describes its furniture: “As Artek products are made out of natural materials they age gracefully and gain patina over time. They tell the story of both the product and the users it has seen.”
4. Good local jobs
Remanufacturing and the circular economy require products to be disassembled, checked, repaired and then reassembled – requiring twice the labour of assembly alone. This generates additional local jobs than assembly from virgin parts.
These jobs require judgement and skill to diagnose and repair problems, which vary from item to item. This type of work is ideal for those new to the workforce (such as long term unemployed) because the variety exists within boundaries, allowing technicians to grow in confidence in the workforce while being presented with new challenges to solve on every item being remanufactured.
For example, eight long term unemployed with disabilities were employed on the Public Health Wales Cardiff office fitout to remanufacture office furniture and fit reclaimed flooring. Thanks in part to this experience, three of these are now in full time jobs.
5. Environmental sustainability
Because undamaged parts are checked, resurfaced and reused, remanufacturing reduces the environmental costs of products, on average, by 80%. This means that they use 80% fewer virgin resources and, by extension, 80% lower biodiversity loss, energy & water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, transport requirements and waste associated with extraction, refining, shaping, coating and finishing these materials.
Remanufacturing and the circular economy also captures a waste stream, reducing landfill.
Tracey Cooper, CEO of Public Health Wales, noted: “Once you have used remanufactured products, there is no going back – why would you?”. Public Health Wales has recently completed the fitout of another office, this time in Swansea, increasing the percentage of refurbished/remanufactured furniture to 95%.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Greg Lavery is the Managing Director of Rype Office, which helps clients to create beautiful, productive offices at substantial cost savings through good design and by using remanufactured and sustainable office furniture. Email [email protected] or phone 033 3358 3330.
 Giuntini, R., Gaudette, K. Remanufacturing: The next great opportunity for boosting US productivity, Business Horizons, Nov-Dec 2003, p. 44; McKenna, R. President and CEO, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, Testimony before the International Trade Commission on: Remanufactured Goods: An Overview of the U.S. and Global Industries, Markets, and Trade, Investigation No. 332-525, Feb 2012.
SDG 12: Why this UN goal should provide guidance to businesses, especially law firms
Eliza Bond, LSA Intern
The United Nations has long been criticised for generality, idealism and impotence – the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, have not been exempt from this criticism. More specifically, SDG 12 –‘ensur[ing] sustainable consumption and production’ is said to obfuscate the ever-growing nature of global demand. However, we believe that the goals of SDG 12 are not only feasibly achievable by 2030, but can be implemented in a cost-effective manner in a corporate environment such as a law firm.
SDG 12 itself centres upon the basic premise of the ‘3 Rs’: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It encourages both consumers and producers to adopt sensible and sustainable practices in order to mitigate the disastrous impact that we humans have been having on the environment. We believe that this clause embodies the spirit of the entire agenda as it directly addresses the important role that businesses play in curbing over-consumption and production, as well as the role that companies play in influencing consumer behaviour.
So, what is the relevance of all this to law firms specifically, given that they are largely in a services industry? We believe this application is twofold: firstly, law firms, big or small, are corporate entities that can set good precedent for other businesses. Taking simple steps such as using recycled paper, switching to digital and sourcing sustainable food (for example) not only improve law firms’ CSR reputation, but also encourages other businesses to do the same, whether they are in the legal industry or not. The collaborative difference is therefore extremely significant. Secondly, due to lawyers’ close interaction with all different aspects of society, we believe that they can play a profound role in influencing consumer behaviour.
Arguably, in a globalised world, corporations have more power to affect the actions and conduct of society as a whole. For example, Wragge & Co, a UK-headquartered international law firm, not only took initiatives to reduce their own waste and consumption, such as default double-sided printing and e-filing, but also launched an advocacy campaign. A mini-documentary and a paper mountain of 467144 sheets of paper proved a persuasive reminder on the need for both corporations and consumers to change their behaviour.
In particular, Linklaters have been leading the way in this initiative to make SDG 12 part of the spirit and policy of the firm. Since 2010, emissions from the firm’s purchased electricity have reduced by 35%, and 65% of this is sourced from renewable supplies. Our 10-year Anniversary Report shows that emissions have reduced by 15% per person across LSA member firms with an average cost saving of £130 per employee for electricity emissions. This demonstrates that the goal of reducing consumption and production is not only possible within a corporate context, but makes firms more productively efficient. Significantly, client demand is in evidence, too. For example, Linklaters reported that last year that over 30 clients asked how the firm manages environmental sustainability, reiterating the point that the impact of adopting sustainable policies, in accordance with SDG 12, has an impact on consumer behaviour.
Eliza Bond is a guest blogger and summer intern at the LSA, and will be reading Law at Jesus College, Cambridge, beginning in October 2017
Air travel in the legal sector: Time for a change in culture?
[Eliza Bond is a guest blogger and summer intern at the LSA, and will be reading Law at Jesus College, Cambridge, beginning in October 2017]
Despite seeing a marked decline in overall carbon footprints of LSA members since our inception 10 years ago, it seems we have gained little traction in reducing air travel, with the average km per head still at 4,000. Although we have access to the technology to prompt the shift towards this reduction, law firms – for the most part – are reticent to take the plunge. Perhaps this is an indication that the problem is not practical, it’s cultural.
With traditional business practice reliant on face-to-face interactions, as well as the added importance of client relations in the legal industry, it is little surprise that air travel has become a necessity. Not only this, but with international travel acting as an incentive to climb up the employment ladder, there is an expectation that jetting across the globe is an afforded luxury gained when someone becomes a more senior lawyer. Although this problem may be to some extent mitigated by a generation of millennials – many of whom are technologically and environmentally minded – entering more senior positions, law firms need to take the initiative themselves and not rely on a gradual shift that may or may not occur.
Having said this, many firms have made giant leaps in introducing new technologies to reduce the reliance on air travel. For instance, in 2009 DLA Piper launched Telepresence, heralded as the ‘future of law communications’, in many of their US branches such as Baltimore, New York and Washington DC. This has now been expanded to the majority of their offices globally. Further still, in 2013 they launched a strategic internal initiative to reduce transport costs, which increased their usage of Lync, an instant messaging tool by 75%. We believe that with an increasingly globalized industry as a result of international mergers, other LSA members must follow in the DLA Piper’s footsteps.
Similarly, although only at a national level in the UK, Bond Pearce (which became part of Bond Dickinson in 2014) introduced HD conferencing units in 2007, saving over 165840 miles of travelling. There is little reason for this kind of technology not to be applied on an international scale.
Obviously, this kind of change cannot be unilateral. It not only requires the co-operation of multiple branches and firms, but also the co-operation of clients. Some matters ought and need to be settled face-to-face – this is accepted. Yet the majority of meetings do not need this kind of formality, especially in a world where the technology is so accessible and user-friendly. With several firms such as Morgan’s Solicitors, Burges Salmon and Nicholas Moore adopting policies to reduce commuter travel at a small scale, and indeed reaping the benefits of such changes such as reducing average emissions per employee, law firms urgently need to address their biggest contributor of carbon emissions.
Although at first it may be difficult to change the attitude towards eliminating air travel, it can soon become routine and will not only be extremely valuable for a company’s public relations and CSR records, but will also reduce costs which are, to some extent, unnecessary.